‘Luxury is the mother of invention’ may not be a common phrase, but it was the impetus for Anthony Baro and Chris Fagan of Blue Isles to develop solar-panelled floating ‘Power-Docks’ that include batteries for electricity storage.
Baro and his wife were enjoying cold drinks on their moored sailboat one afternoon and started thinking about a way to run its refrigerator without draining the onboard battery.
Baro had been involved in renewable energy solutions since 2009 and in 2015 he started working on a project with Fagan, whose architectural firm specializes in sustainable design projects.
The two Rhode Islanders started chatting, found out that both loved the ocean, and within a few weeks had sketched out some designs for their solar-panel docks.
That was in 2015 and by January of 2017 they were ready to tell the world and took their idea to the Electric and Hybrid Propulsion World Expo in Tampa, Florida. Just a few months later, in June ’17 they were cutting the ribbon on their first prototype installation in Newport. At the next year’s 2018 Electric & Hybrid show in Amsterdam they took home the Innovation of the Year Award, then went on to receive the same honour at the Miami Boat Show.
The docks are a floating microgrid
The real innovation of Power-Docks is not simply putting a solar panel on a dock, but the integration of three elements – electricity collection, storage and distribution – in what is essentially a floating microgrid.
A dock – or any number of the docks in a marina – can be connected to the local power grid and take advantage of net metering or other distributed generation incentives, depending on the local regulations. And of course even without connection they are a renewable power source that has no ongoing post-installation expenses.
Because of Chris Fagan’s architectural experience, the docks have been designed to be made of almost any material – traditional woods, metal, composite and formed concrete. The batteries and their capacity are also customized for the location and uses.
The company has also developed a solar mooring dock which can be set up offshore and charge a sailboat’s batteries – or electric boat’s – without the grid connection. Both land-based and floating docks include WiFi capabilities and the electricity generation and storage data is monitored through Blue Isle’s ‘Internet of Things’ software.
As more and more boats of all types start shifting to electric propulsion, we’re looking forward to seeing more and more responses to charging needs.
At one end of the spectrum is the high speed superchargers introduced by Vita superPower in Monaco this past week to service the electric yachts of the Riviera, and at the other end is Blue Isle’s Power-Docks, which provide a more leisurely solution for more leisurely pursuits – like having that cold drink. Cheers!