KT explores power sourcing for electric ferry infrastructure

The process to electrify the Bremerton and Port Orchard ferry docks may be as challenging as it is to make the vessels themselves.

Such a comment was made by Kitsap Transit executive director John Clauson at the agency’s June 4 board meeting, but as KT and Washington State Ferries continue their missions to go green just about every way to harvest such energy is being considered.

The foot ferry program is under design for an all-electric vessel that will require new charging infrastructure on both the Bremerton and Port Orchard ferry docks. As KT hopes to begin the vessel’s construction as soon as this year, the board authorized finding a consultant to help with design and to identify the work needed at the terminals.

KT is not alone in this endeavor to cut down emissions as WSF has opened the bidding process for five new hybrid electric ferries and could add the new support to the Seattle-Bremerton and Clinton-Mukilteo routes as soon as 2028.

The Port of Bremerton is also involved as it works to replace the breakwater at the Port Orchard Marina. Clauson added the new breakwater will provide charging facilities for vessels as well. “This is addressing how we get power from the grid to the facilities,” he said. “It does not go beyond looking at other alternatives.”

One alternative, inquired on by Bremerton City Councilmember Anna Mockler, was the addition of freestanding independent solar power. While Clauson considered solar a separate issue and noted its addition would create more complexity to the electrification timeline, Mockler believes solar could offer a cost-cutting source of power. “Our lowered costs are, of course, the taxpayer’s lowered costs,” she added.

Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putaansuu, while appreciating the spirit of the idea, questioned its feasibility. “I see opportunities at park and ride lots and on buildings, but I don’t believe there’s much of an opportunity, at least on the Port Orchard side, to consider this.”

Clauson told the board the agency would be exploring not only how to bring power to the docks but also how to use a battery bank system to minimize the agency’s impact on the grid.

Still, interest exists in adding alternatives such as solar throughout the transit system. Bainbridge Island Councilmember Clarence Moriwaki said, “I think it’s something we should entertain, because we have so many facilities with rooftops and park and rides, maybe a systemwide study of where this might be possible, where it might be effective.”

With the agency ahead of the game in green fueling and electric bus fleets, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said, a discussion on alternative energy sources in all projects may be warranted. “I don’t see why, even on this (project), that can’t be mentioned to the consultants.”