A Japanese company has developed a system that enables a 20% reduction in energy consumption for the freighters that crisscross the world’s oceans. The idea: equip these vessels with sails covered in solar panels.
The concept proposed by the Eco Marine Power company is simple in principle, complex in its implementation. Harness energy from the sun and wind simultaneously, storing them as electricity which can be used to maneuver in port, greatly reducing the carbon footprint of cargo shipping worldwide. It would eliminate the need for diesel engines when maneuvering near the coast, resulting in less polluted coastal waters.
The company has begun testing the concept in its Osaka labs, considering a variety of applications: bulk ships, tankers, undersea cable-laying ships, The sails, baptized ‘EnergySails’, would automatically rotate to capture the greatest energy possible depending on the orientation of the wind and sun. While ships are docked, sails continue to recharge the batteries via the activation of solar panels.
The development is one of a number of projects to reduce the environmental impact of international maritime transport, which produces 3% of global carbon emissions according to the European Commission. Engineer and Shamengo pioneer Stephan Wrage has spent the last several years developing a kite propulsion system for cargo vessels to harness the rich wind power potential of the open sea.
Wrage’s SkySails are modelled after trick kites, which are much more efficient at wind capture than traditional sails. Unfurling at sea and soaring several hundred metres in the air to maximise wind power, the specialised kites are powerful enough to propel large freight vessels. Early testing suggests that use of the kites as an auxiliary power source offers a significant reduction in fuel use of 10-35% annually. The patented wind capture technology has earned Skysails a number of awards, including the Environmental Technology of the Year in 2011 at the Sustainable Shipping Awards in London.
These technological advances address the problem of rising CO2 emissions and point to a smarter, greener future for global maritime shipping.
From our friends at green-et-vert