Posting in Design
Could photovoltaic sails steer huge vessels into big energy savings? A Japanese company aims to find out.
Turanor PlanetSolar, the world’s largest boat to cruise the seas on 100% sun power, just made its way through the China Sea. To the northeast in Japan, however, a different take on solar-powered sea travel is in the works, one focused on even bigger boats. Fukuoka-based company Eco Marine Power is developing a way to bring solar power and the old nautical standby wind power to tankers, cargo ships and other sea-faring vessels.
Container ships are huge fuel guzzlers, issuing over 90 percent of global trade from port to port, continent to continent, sea to sea. In 2007, the shipping industry emitted 847 million tons of carbon dioxide. The amount was almost 3 percent of human-made CO2 emissions that year, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Supplementing a vessel’s fossil fuel load with energy harnessed during sun-drenched and windswept days on the open ocean could help steer ships to better efficiency.
The patent-pending Aquarius System customizes portable arrays of rigid “solar sails.” While still being designed, these vertical photovoltaic panels are meant to take on double duty, converting sunlight into electricity and serving as sails. The solar power could benefit on-board electric systems and batteries. And the wind power? Well, just how much the wind in these sails might push huge, heavy ships along Eco Marine Power doesn’t say. But they could help reduce drag when wind directions are unfavorable. The photovoltaic sails can also be set down flat while they continue to get some rays. Kei Systems out of Osaka is currently designing a computer system that will control the panels.
Eco Marine Power was a Sustainable Shipping Award finalist for the 2011's greenest shipping initiative earlier this summer. The winner was Green Marine, an organization implementing environmental practices within North America's marine industry.
In July, the IMO adopted pollution standards for new ships heavier than 400 tons. They must lower CO2 emissions by 10 percent before 2019. Five years later, the mandatory emissions cuts rise to 30 percent. But new ships don't get to have all the emissions-slashing fun. Eco Marine Power says the Aquarius System would work great as retrofits, too.
Still testing must be done. If all goes well with their prototype Aquarius in 2012, the company expects commercial deployment just in time for 2013.
Related on SmartPlanet:
- A look at the world's largest solar-powered boat
- Bionic cargo ships riding waves to better fuel efficiency
- A sharkskin coating for ships, planes and blades
Images: Eco Marine Power
Aug 31, 2011
Unless they develop 3D technology that creates solar power from any direction this will be almost worthless. The location of the sun relative to the ships direction of travel and the direction of the wind makes the pictured scenario very unlikely. How often will a cargo ship from China be traveling East into the rising sun with the wind coming from the West? In this limited example, half the day the sun would be behind them and the wind will not always be dead astern.
One more innovative application of solar energy. This will certainly meet the twin purposes of the sails as well as power generation. Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India E-mail: email@example.com
While there are obviously some directions that the solar panels will be less than 100% efficient, the angles aren't as critical as you suspect with newer panels with prismatic surfaces. Regarding conflicts between the angle of the wind and the optimum angle for solar receptions - clearly there are some and at that point the sails would swivel just like any other solar panel farm for better solar efficiency. The idea that any solar power concept has to be 100% efficient to work - needs to be reconsidered - especially as solar power falls even further below petro equivalent costs. Sooner than later we will use solar for pretty much everything power wise, as storage technology improves. Long term and peak resource wise, we have no choice. Solar is the only resource we have this off planet and nearly unlimited and infinite. Don't forget we are now entering the era of double whammy where peak petro and peak phosphate which are going seriously impact food production (95% dependent on NPK fertilizers) - as in massive starvation - if we aren't technically prepared with alternatives. The window of opportunity to develop them is now estimated to be less than 30 years.
You still have the wind to factor into that mix. What do you do when it is a head wind? Square sails are also not very good when sailing on a reach at angles to the wind. Generaly it is 70 degrees off the wind for a square rig verses 40 or less for a fore-aft rig.