With current soaring prices for marine fuels, the shipping industry is looking for alternative sources of energy to trim operating costs. Kites the size of soccer fields are being used to tow large ships in the open ocean reducing operating costs considerably.
The MV Beluga SkySails, a cargo ship rigged up with a billowing 160-meter sail from SkySails, consumed approximately 20 percent less fuel than it would have without the sail during a two-month voyage. That’s a reduction of 2.5 tons of fuel, or $1,000 a day, in operating costs. Beluga Shipping ultimately hopes to save $2,000 a day with this back to the future technology.
For the first time, the US Navy is using a new breed of sailing ship to deliver military equipment, a move that can potentially reduce fuel costs by 20 to 30 percent, or roughly $1,600 a day per ship, according to the ship’s owners.
The Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) has chartered the “kite-assisted”, fuel-saving 400 foot, MV Beluga to deliver Air Force and Army cargo to from Europe to the US.
The MV Beluga uses a paraglider-shaped, SkySails-System, which supplements its conventional, internal combustion engines. The sail is basically a huge, computer-controlled kite that soars 100 to 300 yards into the air, using the wind to tow the ship at the end of a long tear-proof, synthetic rope.
Imagine a cargo ship that is nearly 400 feet long being powered by the wind. Obviously, it is not a new concept, as ships used to wind powered. But they were very different then. These modern cargo ships are way different.
The sail will be more like a kite as it allowes to drift over 600 feet above the ship. This clearly will not totally replace the engines, as they are needed for maneuvering and power, but when the sail is deployed during the long journey, the ship can save around 20 percent of fuel consumption, which is not bad at all.
Other companies working on reducing emissions and fuel consumptions on ships include Solar Sailor, which has created sails with integrated solar panels. A ferry with sails already operates in Sydney Harbor. San Francisco may get one as early as 2009.
Yep, wind power is back! I can see a big smile on Al Gore’s face.