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Forum explores ‘greening’ technologies

Working together toward the common goal of "greening" the boating industry was the topic at a recent roundtable sponsored by the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association.


Sixty-eight people attended the March 5 discussion held at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I., to discuss how marine businesses can take advantage of green technology. Featured speakers included marine technical expert and author Nigel Calder; John Burman, vice president of Kingman Yacht Center in Cataumet, Mass.; Richard O'Meara, owner of Core Composites in Newport, R.I.; and Fred Hashway Jr., director of government affairs for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp.

The roundtable was organized and moderated by John Stier, marine systems instructor at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport. "This is the start of a great incubation," says Stier. "I hope I can get the support from RIMTA to continue the momentum for these discussions."

Calder talked about how boatbuilders should be looking into ways to make their vessels more energy efficient - for example, the use of hybrid systems and battery power. "The power distribution in boat systems has remained virtually unchanged since the 1970s," says Calder. "We have the potential for radical improvements in reliability and efficiency."

Calder says batteries are becoming more efficient in terms of charging capabilities, and manufacturers should also integrate solar, wind and fuel cell technologies as they become more widely available.

Burman discussed the solar aspect of green technology, pointing to the 474 SunTech STP210 PV solar panels Kingman Yacht Center installed on three of its roofs in 2009. The installation covers about 8,000 square feet and cost $646,000, including panels, inverters, wiring and labor. However, the cost to Kingman was $79,320 after the company secured state and federal discounts and grants with the help of Beaumont Solar Co. of New Bedford, Mass., the firm that installed the setup. Energy savings over 25 years could be as much as $500,000, according to Burman.

O'Meara discussed how boatbuilders with composites expertise should look outside the marine industry to diversify into other markets, such as core composites being used in the construction of green buildings. "Being 100 percent dependent on niches in the marine industry ... is no longer a good idea," says O'Meara. "We have to begin to diversify."

The concept of an offshore wind farm has been a source of debate in coastal Southern New England for years. The proposed Cape Wind project on Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod, Mass., has drawn opposition from boaters and others who argue it would spoil the pristine environment and could pose a hazard to navigation.

Hashway says Rhode Island is working with Deepwater Wind - an offshore wind developer with locations in Providence, R.I., Hauppauge, N.Y., Hoboken, N.J., and Houston - on an environmental feasibility study for a wind farm off Block Island. He was asked about the potential for opposition, in light of the fact that the Cape Wind project has been grinding along for nine years to get approval. Hashway says he is confident that efforts to involve all affected parties in the dialogue from the start would create less controversy.

"We have already started discussions with commercial fishermen on this," says Hashway. "We are trying to get everyone in on the discussion from the get-go."

The roundtable concluded with state officials discussing state and federal grant opportunities that will allow companies to adopt some of these greening practices, as well as employee training and hiring programs. "There was definitely a lot of good information," says Catherine Goulart, work force planning consultant for Mosaico Community Development Corp. in Bristol. "Any time we can network like this and get to know the opportunities coming up and how the industry is expanding is definitely going to be beneficial for us."

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This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue.



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