Electricity

An update from Suzanne O'Connell
Lights along the Drilling Derrick
Lights blaze atop the drilling derrick.

At night, the ship looks ready for Christmas. Long white lights illuminate the 200-foot-high derrick. Blue and orange beacons sit upright on the heli-deck, and red lights glow from the radio tower. Inside the ship 100 computers process words and data, and the desalinators produce drinking water. And below the waterline, thrusters turn propellers to keep the ship stationary. All of this is made possible by electricity.

Lights along the catwalk
The ship has to generate its own electricity to light the catwalks at night time.

Electricity on the ship is generated by five large diesel-electric engines, each capable of creating 2100 kilowatts (5 x 2100 = 10500 kW), and two smaller 1500 kW diesel-electric engines. These 28-year-old engines have a total capacity of 13,500 kW (13.5 MW). To put this in perspective: the generators homeowners buy to provide backup in case of a power outage typically have a capacity of just 0.5 to 10 kW. The Resolution's generators produce enough energy in an hour to power the average American house for roughly 18 months!

The JODES Resolution engineering room
The JODES Resolution engineering room

An engineer is responsible for keeping the engines running and ensuring a sufficient flow of electricity. His workplace is a 20-foot-long console in a room lined with gray metal cabinets which hide panels monitoring electricity generation and distribution. The console is covered with gauges and computer screens showing the electric state of the ship: how many engines are on, how much energy is produced, and where it is being used. From this spot, the engineer can check the temperature of the food freezer, how much fuel is in a tank, and the RPMs of each engine.

When more electricity is produced than the ship needs, an engine can be turned off to save fuel. When more electricity is needed, an engine is turned on. Should use increase quickly, to 85% of the electricity being produced, an engine will automatically be turned on, warm up, and be online in about ten minutes. If more electricity is needed immediately, an engine can be online and producing electricity in just five seconds.

Keeping the engines cooled and the ship on station are electrical priorities. If more engines come online and there's still not enough electricity for those two functions, electricity is cut to other areas, producing a temporary shipboard brownout.