Summary assessment of the status of floating powerplants

Floating powerplants are intended to generate electricity in coastal areas where the on-land generation capacity is insufficient to meet demand. The number of floating powerplants has been increasing in the past decades. Most floating powerplants operate on fossil fuel and generate emissions into the air, create noise and discharge emissions into the water, which affects the local environment, air and water quality, and the climate. This report takes an in-depth look at floating powerplants and analyses the circumstances under which they are likely to cause environmental concerns.

There are two main types of floating powerplants: self-propelled powerships, which are often converted bulk carriers on which a powerplant has been installed, and non-propelled powerbarges, which are generally purpose-built floating structures hosting a powerplant.

Floating powerplants are deployed in different types of markets:

  • As a long-term power generation installation (for several years and sometimes even decades), often in developing countries where:
    • there is no powerplant on land to supply the required electricity; or
    • it is difficult to build a powerplant on land, such as on islands and in remote areas; or
    • ownership and payment structures make it financially attractive to deploy a floating powerplant rather than invest in on-land capacity; or
  • as a temporary replacement for a powerplant on land that is under construction or temporarily out of order; or
    in emergency situations when electricity is temporarily not available on land due to a natural disaster; or
  • to supply electricity to ships at berth so that they can switch off their generators.

An assessment of whether the deployment of a floating powerplant will have a larger or smaller impact on the environment than an alternative land-based powerplant will depend on the relevant local source of alternative power generation. This report has developed a checklist to help with the assessment, and to qualitatively assess the environmental and human health risk of a floating powerplant.

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