Maine Maritime Academy's training ship State of Maine and other MMA vessels are tied along the Castine school's waterfront. The school has partnered with a California tech company to test out technology that would allow vessels to store energy and put it back into the grid when not in use. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Maritime Academy

Maine Maritime Academy and a San Diego-based company plan to conduct some of the maritime industry’s first tests on an emerging electric battery technology that could help stabilize energy grids at peak demand.

The academy and Nuvve, a “vehicle-to-grid” energy company, signed an agreement last month to establish a center at the Castine campus that would be the hub for experimentation with the company’s technology on the water.

Instead of only taking electricity from the grid, vehicle-to-grid technology allows energy to flow in both directions from an electric car when it’s plugged in. Vehicles can both store energy at low demand times and discharge it back into the grid when energy demand is high.

For the most part, the technology has been limited to electric vehicles, but Nuvve is now exploring opportunities with boats at MMA.

The academy plans to expand its curriculum and certification programs to include training around the technology and is one of the only maritime schools to be using it, said Keith Williamson, the academy’s provost.

This builds on the school’s work with hybrid engines that run on both diesel and electric, according to Williamson. The new technology likely wouldn’t be tested on larger ocean-going vessels like the academy’s training ship but on smaller research boats while they are docked.

Williamson expected the partnership to expand beyond just testing the technology itself and into a range of other academy subjects.

“This kind of technology touches all kinds of critical areas: data science, computing, even cyber security,” he said. “It’s energy technology that has so many tentacles throughout the curriculum.”

The partnership will allow Nuvve to prove its technology’s potential in ports and could create opportunities for electrified maritime transportation to help stabilize the power grid, the company said in a statement.

“The program developed through this strategic collaboration will allow Nuvve to dive deeper into the use of maritime [vehicle-to-grid], while also developing cybersecurity risk management and AI tools specifically for maritime industry projects and applications,” said Gregory Poilasne, the company’s CEO.

The exact details of the agreement were not publicly available because the school signed a non-disclosure agreement, according to Williamson.

The company also partnered with a school in California to use the technology in school buses, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Maine partnership is one of the first new moves at the school under new president Jerry Paul, an alum who came back to the school this year.

Paul said the academy is always looking for ways to involve students in cutting-edge technologies and projects that can be applied in the real world.

The Nuvve collaboration “will help better prepare students by unlocking new, innovative technologies and services to help communities and the planet move forward into a world less reliant on fossil fuels,” he said.