Marine

Rigid solar EnergySail set for sea trials next year

Rigid solar EnergySail set for...
A look at the Aquarius MRE concept 
A look at the Aquarius MRE concept 
View 2 Images
A look at the Aquarius MRE concept 
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A look at the Aquarius MRE concept 
One of the ships being mooted for next year's sea trials 
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One of the ships being mooted for next year's sea trials 

Eco Marine Power is preparing to put its rigid solar energy sails through their paces next year. Unlike some other proposals for reviving the use of sails in commercial shipping, the EnergySail from Eco Marine Power (EMP) can harness the power of the wind and sun at the same time, for high-efficiency transport on the high seas.

Made of either high strength steel or carbon fiber, the EnergySail is a rigid sail sitting on a rotating pole, mounted on the deck of a ship. Solar panels embedded in the sail, along with panels mounted on the deck, are used to augment the power usually provided by auxiliary generators. When conditions get rough, the sails can be lowered and stored out of harm's way.

When the ship is sitting in port, the EnergySails can also be used to collect energy. It'll be stored in a battery and used for zero-emissions operation of its electrical systems. EMP is also planning a version of the sails capable of collecting solar power when lowered.

One of the ships being mooted for next year's sea trials 
One of the ships being mooted for next year's sea trials 

The company is currently conducting a feasibility study in tandem with Hisafuku Kisen K.K, working to estimate the amount of propulsion a rigid sail system could provide each ship in its fleet. The amount of solar power each shipping route would provide is also being taken into account. One ship will be chosen for a proper 12 - 18 month sea trial, set to take place next year.

The trial ship will be fitted with EnergySails, solar panels on the decks, battery storage and all the requisite energy management hardware. When used together, EMP says the setup will deliver better fuel consumption, lower air pollution and CO2 emissions. By extension, that should also mean lower fuel costs for global shipping operators.

"It's great that we are able to co-operate with Hisafuku Kisen and we very much appreciate their cooperation in helping us move this important project towards sea trials," says Greg Atkinson, Chief Technology Officer and Founder of Eco Marine Power. "We also appreciate the support of our strategic partners and together we believe Aquarius MRE will pave the way towards the widespread adoption of renewable energy on ships."

Source: Eco Marine Power

16 comments
Tommo
Lets hope the ship in the image does better than its namesake...
ThomasEdwardMiller
Remember that ships and airoplanes flying over the sea shade the sea from a lot of solar radiation that would have heated the sea. If 1000 W is falling on every square metre a lot of solar radiation is prevented from entering the ocean. If the plane or aircraft reflects sunlight then this prevents Earth from heating.
VincentWolf
Why not spread wings like a bird on the outside of the ship much like the space station spreads it wings to collect solar power? A ship 100 feet wide could easily spread out to 200 feet or more thus a 1000 foot cargo ship would have 200x1000 or 200,000 sq ft of solar space able to hold about 11,111 panels and produce 265 Watts x 11,111 = almost 3 million Watts. And that would be generated while in port as well if room to roll out the panels exists. That's a lot of power.
Techtwit
One has to assume that they have overcome the problem of salt encrustation of the sails and deck mounted panels, plus found a way to inhibit or prevent algae growth. If not, then this technology is at odds with the development of autonomous ships, as a crew will be needed to remove deposits to keep up the conversion efficiency of panels. Presumably there is a system to determine which source of power is preferential when the wind is in the wrong quarter for the sail position to be compatible with maximising solar capture.
MartinVoelker
Not an easy project as salt water and salty mist poses great challenges to solar PV. But considering the enormous pollution brought on by diesel ship engines (which burn the lowest grade fuel imaginable) any method to reduce fuel use is an improvement.
Kpar
Sun and wind are almost a constant on the "bounding main". I am surprised there has not been more effort to harness sails to augment the engine power. The solar panel sails are a nice touch, but I wonder what is the payback period?
And Techtwit is right about conditions- salt water environments are quite corrosive.
watersworm
Great idea... In theory What about supplementary wheigh from batteries ? What about total investments cost ? What about back-up "fuel" engines (same as "normal" ship or less) ?
ljaques
With that acronym, I'm surprised the company got off the ground. That said, the mechanicals involved _alone_ would far offset the gains made by any solar power collected by the panels. Expect 5000% above average breakage and maintenance on the presentation hardware itself. They could present the panels in that manner only in calm seas with no wind. Har! Great premise, horrid implementation. Simply adding solar panels to the flat cargo lids and roof of the bridge (if not taken up by cranes) would give them the necessary eco power without all the headaches and extreme costs of mobilizing the solar panels. Someone needs to Buy a Clue!
ljaques
I forgot to mention that if the panels (on the sails) were presented to the wind, they wouldn't be gathering solar power. And how often are cargo ships exposed to fair winds and following seas?
Subtle
Could charge some flashlights as well as a lot of cell phones with that array.