ELECTRIC BLUE POWER
The mission of Electric Blue Power (EBP) is to leverage recent advancements in battery storage, particularly lithium battery storage, and solar panels, with the direction of inventor and EBP technology head Lee Wheelbarger, using as its principal research platform, Electric Blue Solar Research Vessel (Electric Blue SRV). EBP has a particular focus on marine solar electric propulsion, but its solar electric systems are also adaptable to a range of non-marine uses such as distributed power, micro grids, mobile power, idle mitigation, hybrid power, homes and critical infrastructure.
The solar panels, batteries and components used in EBP’s systems are evaluated to be best-in-class but (with the exception of some specially manufactured proprietary controls) are designed to be interchangeable on a modular basis with those of multiple manufacturers, allowing a variety of equipment combinations to meet design parameters for cruising range, average speed and continuous operation while optimizing the cost and sourcing of components.
EBP’s systems seek to maximize combined battery, solar and motor efficiencies in order to make possible maintenance-free, quiet, non-polluting, continuous solar powered cruising. EBP is actively protecting and preparing to commercialize its IP on a licensing model, without relying principally on direct involvement in vessel or system component sales.
EBP’s systems are intended to be deployable, following additional near-term testing and development, for use not only by smaller craft but in due course following additional development and testing, for large personal vessels such as large houseboats and yachts and for commercial vessels such as river barges and ultimately, long-range ocean freighters. (Some larger vessels may elect to include integrated supplemental (hybrid) power solutions for increased performance where added speed and/or power are critical.)
ELECTRIC BLUE SOLAR RESEARCH VESSEL
The Electric Blue Solar Research Vessel (“Electric Blue SRV”), sponsored by EBP with support from Far Resources, Ltd. and others, is believed to be the largest 100% solar-powered boat (excluding therefore, electric-gas/diesel hybrids) in North America. The vessel is a large trimaran with a fiberglass/wood/foam composite hull that is 40 feet long, 24 feet wide and weighs some 25,000 pounds, with four staterooms. It was designed by Arthur Piver, considered the father of the modern multi-hull vessel, as an ocean-going sailing vessel (Victrous class) and sailed successfully for decades. In 2015, it was purchased out of retirement, de-masted and renovated into a live-aboard vessel that is equipped for the research and development of solar energy technologies that provide viable alternatives for marine power and propulsion.
EBP’s marine power system design incorporates batteries to store electricity generated by high efficiency solar panels that is then drawn from the batteries to drive a high-efficiency electric motor. EBP’s development and testing program centered on the Electric Blue SRV is aimed to develop a system that (i) simultaneously propels the vessel at sail cruising speeds, while supplying the vessel’s HVAC system, water system and other on-board auxiliaries while underway, and (ii) has the capability for continuous 24/7 cruising on solar power only without having to stop at night or to charge the batteries and without relying on any backup or hybrid power system.
Electric Blue SRV has already demonstrated sustained cruising capability on only solar power using EBP’s system. Following its launch on March 2, 2019, Electric Blue SRV completed a trial voyage of over 1540 miles from LaBelle, Florida, along the US East Coast on the Intracoastal Waterway, successfully arriving on May 8, 2019, in Washington, D.C. The vessel’s initial equipment comprised only a 10 kW battery pack and 4 kW of solar panels. EBP is aware of only a few similar long-distance voyages under 100% solar power, and none with similar efficiency and cost parameters.
Since arriving from its maiden voyage in Washington, D.C., Electric Blue SRV has been undergoing refitting and upgrading including 10 kW of high-performance lithium batteries and adding 2 kW of solar panels (a total 6 kW). Initial results even at this starting (minimum) battery capacity have demonstrated reliable daytime operation and a cruising speed averaging 3-4 knots in average flat water conditions, while drawing as little as 2500-3000 watts of solar-generated power for propulsion. Over the next months, Electric Blue SRV plans to add additional battery capacity and performance. Initial results indicate that 24/7 continuous 100% solar powered cruising, plus powering of all auxiliaries, can be achieved with as little as 40-50 kW of high-performance lithium batteries, or what would be the equivalent to about half the size of a long-range Tesla battery pack.
Inventor and Technology Head, EBP
Captain, Electric Blue SRV
Lee Wheelbarger has over 30 years experience in Research, Development, Test & Evaluation (RDT&E) of battery-centered, high-reliability hybrid power systems and electronics, including cutting-edge systems for critical infrastructure, military and marine applications, and is responsible for dozens of patents and inventions.
As Senior Technologist and Lead Technical Integrator for the U.S. Army Dismounted Battlespace Battle Lab (DBBL), Fort Benning, Georgia, he evaluated dozens of systems and led the testing and integration of the first battlefield-ready “MilSpec” (1342B 2) hybrid battery-generator system. Mr. Wheelbarger subsequently oversaw the design and testing of mobile auxiliary battery-based systems that have been successfully installed in hundreds of police, emergency and utility vehicles, including ambulances. He currently designs and consults on hybrid solar generator systems that incorporate battery storage using best-of-breed lithium batteries to provide reliable power for critical infrastructure, mobile power and telecommunications applications. He is also managing a project to test sustained solar-battery propulsion and auxiliary power for ocean going vessels.