Revolution in Modern Shipping – Wind Energy!
Using wind energy for vessel propulsion is not a new idea, but it has been relegated to leisure activities like sailboating in favour of powerful engines for large ships. However, the environmental concerns and upcoming emission regulations have encouraged maritime professionals to look into alternatives for ship propulsion. Going back to the shipping industry’s roots and combining it with new technologies to harness renewable power, sees maritime set sail for a new age of wind propulsion.
Starting off, wind energy is being used as an auxiliary power source. Most notably, in April 2018, the modern Rotor Sail technology from the Finnish company Norsepower was installed onboard Viking Line’s M/S Viking Grace. This technology has made it the world’s first passenger vessel to be partially powered by wind. The spinning cylinders on top of the ship, called Rotor Sails, operate using the Magnus effect. The wind hitting the sails creates a difference in pressure between the front and rear sails, creating thrust that moves the vessel forward. It is expected that such hybrids could save the maritime industry up to €6 billion yearly while also reducing emissions equal to 12 coal power plants.
Norsepower haven’t stopped here with encouraging green shipping in the industry. To increase awareness of using wind power and streamline manufacturing operations, the company is continuously raising money, reaching more than €13 million until now. Not to mention, the installations are going forward with such industry leaders like Maersk joining the ranks of wind energy proponents. This summer the mechanical sails were fitted to the Maersk Pelican tanker – the largest vessel using this technology to date. It is expected to reduce fuel consumption by 7 – 10%. If this test proves to be cost-effective for the company, the Rotor Sails could be installed on a number of tankers in Maersk’s fleet, consisting of 164 vessels.
While these ships are to be celebrated for benefiting the industry’s environmental goals, for now, the renewable power source is only auxiliary. Nonetheless, the innovators are moving forward with technologies to come up with a way to have wind propulsion as a primary system. Recently, the French car manufacturer Renault has signed a deal with Neoline to build two ro-ro vessels for transportation through the Atlantic, exclusively powered by wind. The 136-metre long vessel is expected to hit the waters in 2020 and ship nearly 60% of Renault’s parts & cars. The ship’s design will be able to accommodate up to 478 vehicles in its 1,700 linear metres of cargo space. The primary use of wind energy will allow the Neoliner sail at a standard speed of 11 knots and reduce CO2 emissions by about 90%.
As the industry is moving towards the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in the near future, wind-powered vessels could provide the right strategy. Modern technologies like the Rotor Sails allow even large ships to utilise this renewable resource and effectively protect the environment. Whether wind energy will be able to generate enough power to become the main propulsion system for vessels is still too early to tell. However, the certainty that the industry is well on its way to make it a reality is clear.
What other innovations are in the pipeline to make the maritime industry green and sustainable? Discover the answer at the 2nd Green Maritime Forum on 2-3 April in Hamburg where shipping experts and executives from leading companies will reveal their stance on renewable energy and other alternatives as a method of propulsion for ships in a panel discussion.