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Supplier interview: MMe

Sea change

In the glamorous world of luxury superyachts, are diesel generators about to be replaced by a cleaner, smoother and more re ned electrical power supply technology? Words: Josh Bentall

Supplier interview: MMe

“this technology is revolutionizing the marine world and

i really do believe that it’s not a question of ‘if’ but rather

‘when’ microturbines become the standard for energy

power supply in the yachting sector and marine world“

Siegfried Steiner, CEO, MME MicroTurbine Marine Energy

Meet Siegfried Steiner. Successful entrepreneur, passionate sailor and a man that cares dearly about the environment.

Though perhaps not the most obvious three traits to go hand in hand, its these qualities that are at the heart of what the 70-year-old German is pushing ahead with today: state-of-the-art propulsion technology that makes the eco- friendly sailing dream a reality.

“For me, personally, sailing means moving forward only by the power of wind,” says Steiner, owner of a 44m schooner sailing yacht called Lethantia. “The only noise I want to hear is the wind in the sails and the sea splashing below.”

Speaking with Steiner, it quickly becomes clear just how fervent he is about sustainable sailing. He tells a particularly pertinent story of a few years ago, when his beloved Lethantia was powered by three diesel generators – two 45kW units and one 16kW night-time generator. “The noise and vibration of those diesel engines really used to annoy me. And one morning, in a bay in Croatia, I woke up and went for a swim, and was absolutely embarrassed by the pollution the generators caused. There were oil slicks in the water and a strong burnt-out diesel smell in the air. From there, it was time to change things.”

To say the rest is history would be rather simplistic, but shortly after that embarrassment- come-eureka-moment, in 2013 Steiner founded MME MicroTurbine Marine Energy, an all-new department of Steiner-Film, an upmarket production company that’s been going from strength to strength since the late 1960s.

“I remember thinking to myself, APUs are used for the power supply in airplanes – systems based on turbine technology – so why not apply these principles to marine applications?”

As a result, Steiner started speaking with California-headquartered Capstone MicroTurbine, a leader in turbine developments. Through the organization’s German of ce, he ordered a 30kW microturbine unit to be installed in the Lethantia.

“Initially, we had to change the original application so it could t a superyacht engine room,” he recalls. “We had to move out the diesel generator from its sound enclosure and t the microturbine parts into the same installation space. Since it’s installation, the technology has been running like a dream. In fact, the greatest challenge for our engineers was removing the diesel generator from the engine room.”

Emissions-free sailing, no diesel generator noise, vibrations and smell, and clear waters unpolluted by oil, are just some of the bene ts that the re-born Lethantia offers up.

“The installation was so good that we decided to show it to Capstone management,” continues Steiner. “We both felt that there’s massive

potential, so we now have an OEM contract with them for their technology with full exclusivity worldwide for the marine superyacht business.”

Only the start

With the company less than a year old, Steiner says MME’s journey has only just begun. Located south of Munich, Germany, the long-term aim for the start-up is for it “to be in a leading position, with Capstone MicroTurbine, in terms of developing and producing high-quality and high-ef ciency power supply technology for the marine sector”.

And yet, despite its short existence, MME, says Steiner, has already been inundated with a large amount of serious business requests from shipyards, naval architects, project managers and superyacht owners from around the world. “This kind of interest makes me feel very upbeat about this venture – it’s incredibly positive – and I’m con dent that we’ll have brilliant results to show as the year pans out.”

The remit is straightforward, if not challenging: to provide the marine yachting sector with microturbine power generation solutions that reduce the environmental impact that diesel generators have without compromise to aspects such as comfort and performance.

“We need to spread the word, educate the industry,” states Steiner. “Microturbines are compact and they’ve speci cally been designed to reduce noise and vibrations, pollutants, greenhouse gases and energy costs, all without the need for expensive and complex aftertreatment and particle ltering systems.”

Despite such huge real-world bene ts, at the very core of the MME and Capstone technology is engineering simplicity. With just one moving part that’s supported by air bearings, the microturbine eliminates the need for lubricating oil. An add-on to this is that there are no oil disposal issues, while general maintenance compared with diesel generators is dramatically reduced. In addition to the air bearings, the Capstone microturbines also feature generator cooling ns, exhaust outlet, recuperator, fuel injector, combustion chamber, turbine, compressor, generator and an air-intake channel.

High-tech power electronics and a built-in high-speed permanent magnet generator at the heart of the microturbine technology provides reliable power and enhanced power quality. The setup means that the system is load following, meaning that speed is automatically adapted to the actual load, an approach that results in reduced fuel consumption and emissions output.

The electronics, which have integrated paralleling functionality to eliminate the need for a paralleling system, are used to convert high-frequency power from the microturbine

74 // April 2014 // Electric & Hybrid Marine Technology International

Electric & Hybrid Marine Technology International // April 2014 // 75

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