We are Sailing, Solar Sailing...

27 November 2008

We are Sailing, Solar Sailing...

An Australian shipbuilding firm has landed a plum contract to fit Solar powered “Wings” to a giant chinese tanker. These aluminium solar sails generate electricity and also save fuel by catching any breezes that are around – exactly like the clipper ships of yore. They harness the wind to cut fuel costs by around 30%, as well as generating electricity to meet around five percent of the ship's needs. They can be retrofitted to existing designs. The makers SolarSailor say that they will pay for themselves by saving fuel costs in four years.

China's giant COSCO shipping company will fit the sails to two cargo vessels as an experiment to see how well they will fare in oceanic conditions.

Solarsailor already has successfully built a 100 passenger ferry. It calls this technology Hybrid Marine Power (HMP): “Like hybrid cars, the HMP system combines the efficiency of electric drive with the power of conventional drives. The HMP system also adds renewable energy available particularly the sun and the wind via the 'solar wing' a single device, which harvests both sun and wind energy in a seaworthy manner at sea. Solar Sailor has won numerous awards for design and innovation including the 2001 Australian Design Award of the Year.”

"We are confident we can build everything up to ocean liners
and in fifty years time people will look back at boats of the
20th Century and they'll say "where are the wings"?"
- Dr Robert Dane, CEO, Solar Sailor

Unlike the old windjammers, the solar sail vessels will not need jack tars jumping into the rigging – all the sail movements are controlled by computers from the bridge of the ship, linked into the navigation system, and aligned by sensors attached to the system. Solarsailor claim that no extra training is needed for crews to operate the vessel in this manner. This looks like a promising technology to reduce the carbon footprint of boats of all kinds.


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