Wind Makes a Comeback on The Ocean Waves
When it comes to marine shipping wind is one of the oldest forms of propulsion. While the days of sail have long been superseded when it comes to commercial traffic, it seems it could be making a comeback.
The idea of rigid sails, computer controlled to make the best of the wind, has been around for a while, but a new concept ship, that includes solar power and energy storage as well, could signpost the way to the future for cargo shipping.
The company behind the new prototype — Eco Marine Power — believes that its technology can go beyond cargo shipping to include cruise liners and ore carriers. If it does than it will substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the shipping industry.
At the heart of its system is a unique rigid sail (known as EnergySail) that not only harnesses the wind but also acts as a solar panel. Any excess energy is stored in batteries. The result, says the company, is a product that is an “advanced integrated system of rigid sails, marine-grade solar panels, energy storage modules and marine computers that will enable ships to tap into renewable energy by harnessing the power provided by the wind and sun.”
One big advantage of the system is that ships will be able to harvest energy (via the solar modules) even when docked. Apart from powering onboard systems this means enough energy will be available to leave harbour without the use of diesel engines, thus also improving air quality in port.
Overall the system, which is designed to work in conjunction with conventional diesel engines, is hoped to save around 40% in greenhouse gas and other polluting emissions. The pay off for shipping companies will be a similar saving in fuel. On the horizon is a 12-18 month sea testing phase to prove the efficiency of the system.