State taking steps to convert ferry fleet to electric

Whether or not one completely or partly buys into the science surrounding climate change, a very recent report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change more than likely got your attention.

It said, among other things, that the planet is warming to a point that irreversible damage is going to be caused to some parts of the world if we don’t stop dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Exactly what is going to happen and when is unclear. What is crystal clear, however, is that climate change will continue to be a front-burner issue for many years going forward.

With that as a backdrop, state government has announced plans to convert one of the Mackinac Island ferries from diesel power to zero-emissions electric power.

A $3.06 million award from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Fuel Transformation Program Part 2 will support the first conversion.

If the program is successful, others are likely to follow.

The former Star Line, now known as the Mackinac Island Ferry Company, will replace two 1988 diesel engines with two new electric propulsion motors on a ferry, the Chippewa, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 14,152 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents and 887 metric tons of nitrogen oxides over the boat’s lifetime, EGLE announced in a recent news release.

Work will begin immediately as part of a two- to three-year overhaul that will redesign and modernize the vessel’s hull and appearance.

The Chippewa conversion is a pilot project for electrification of 28 Mackinac Island ferries in all.

It marks the launch of the MEA’s Mackinac Marine Mobility Strategic Plan to create full-time, year-round marine and shipbuilding jobs in the straits region.

Also partnering in the project is shipbuilder Incat Crowther.

We certainly can see that the transition from fossil fuels to electrical power is happening more and more.

This move by the state is consistent with that evolution.


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