Energy security: power plant ships instead of nuclear power: what is it all about?

As planned, the Emsland nuclear power plant is to be taken off the grid at the end of the year - and not, if necessary, help to secure the energy supply in winter like the other two remaining nuclear reactors in southern Germany.

Energy security: power plant ships instead of nuclear power: what is it all about?

As planned, the Emsland nuclear power plant is to be taken off the grid at the end of the year - and not, if necessary, help to secure the energy supply in winter like the other two remaining nuclear reactors in southern Germany. This is based on the plans of the Federal Ministry of Economics based on the second energy stress test. The reason for the sorting out of the nuclear power plant in Lingen, Lower Saxony, is given in a ministry paper that in northern Germany there are "less risky instruments" [than nuclear power, editor's note. Red.] could be used, namely "additional oil power plants in the form of power plant ships, so-called 'power barges'".

These power plant ships are usually power plant blocks that can be mounted on floating pontoons or suitable rafts or ships and brought to the required locations. Most of these locations are ports or stretches of coast in whose adjacent region there is an (additional) energy requirement or where a supply gap needs to be closed. In addition to being flexible in use, the main advantage of the Floating Power Barges is that they can also be set up where there is no suitable space for power plants and the construction of new, stationary plants cannot be financed.

The technology has been tried and tested, is in use worldwide and is not only suitable for smaller supplies. New York, for example, has also been supplied by power barges in the Upper Bay off Brooklyn for 50 years. The world market leader Karpowership, part of the Turkish Karadeniz Holding, states that it currently has 25 power plant ships in operation in eleven regions of the world. According to this, countries like Guinea Bissau or Sierra Leone are supplied 80 to 100 percent by the Turkish powerships. Most of the power plants are operated by gas turbines, which is out of the question in view of the gas shortage in Russia. Floating heavy oil, diesel and even nuclear power plants are also operated. Biofuels should also be possible. German suppliers of power barges include Siemens and RWE.

There is usually a need in developing countries, but in view of the uncertain supply situation caused by the Ukraine war, power barges could also be used more frequently in Europe in the future. In order to replace a nuclear power plant such as the Emsland nuclear power station with a capacity of around one gigawatt, two power plant ships, each capable of delivering 500 megawatts, are likely to be needed. According to experts, there is currently a leasing market for such ships with a total capacity of ten gigawatts. According to estimates, around 75 power barges are available worldwide, Karpowership guarantees that its ships are said to be operational within 60 days. The Ministry of Economic Affairs has not yet commented on where the ships that are to replace the nuclear power plant in Lingen should come from. It should be important for the government: According to experts, it is a plug-and-play concept. Once in place, the floating power plants should be usable immediately.

The ships are operated by energy companies, and their use has not been worthwhile in Germany so far. This only changed with the rise in electricity prices. According to experts, the CO2 emissions from two floating oil power plants would be counterproductive for climate protection. However, the nuclear phase-out law stipulates that lower-risk technologies must be used if they are available, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.

Sources: Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection; Karadeniz Holding; SiemensEnergy; Euractiv

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