Skagit's Small Ferry System Ready To lead U.S. On Fuel Efficiency

Aug 23, 2017

Diesel-burning ferry boats could be a thing of the past for Skagit County. The county plans to replace its passenger ferry with an all-electric model. It would be the first of its kind built anywhere in the U.S.

Skagit County runs one ferry from Anacortes to Guemes Island, with more than 20 round trips a day. The small operation could soon lead the pack for fuel efficiency.

County Commissioners want to replace the 99-passenger boat with a battery powered version.

Commissioner Ken Dahlstedt said it would likely cost less, both in maintenance and energy use. Dahlstedt said it would also have less noise impact on Orcas and Chinook salmon.

"I'm actually a country boy, I'm a fourth generation farmer here in Skagit County, but I'm very concerned about the environment,” he said. “I think that we all want to have clean water, clean air, but I'm also fiscally responsible too and that's why we're so excited about this."

County commissioners will have a public meeting on the plan next week. Dahlstedt said the county is in talks with a contractor about building the boat.

Skagit County is encouraging the state ferry system to look into battery power as well, Dahlstedt said. The state's ferryboats are powered by diesel.

Washington ferries spokesperson Ian Sterling said it’s more difficult with the state’s longer routes, but that it's an exciting possibility.

“Now that this technology is maturing, are electric or at least hybrid ferries a possibility for the state? The answer is, yeah we're taking a close look at that right now,” Sterling said.

Skagit County is aiming to have an all-electric vessel on the water in 2020.

Dahlstedt said he first considered the idea when Norway rolled out an all-electric model a few years ago.

Copyright 2017 KUOW