July 27th, 2017 by Tina Casey
A cutting-edge new cargo ship from the company Eco Marine Power could be the first out of the box to integrate a rigid sail system with solar power and energy storage. Going by the concept design, the renewable energy hardware seems to be taking up some valuable deck space, but this first vessel will be a floating R&D platform intended to arrive at the optimal balance between renewables and cargo for various ship models.
If all goes well, the company foresees that various iterations of the wind+solar+storage combo could be used in the cruise ship and ore carrier sectors, in addition to cargo ships.
A move in the direction of rigid sails for cargo ships crossed the CleanTechnica radar back in 2012, when the Irish company B9 Shipping came up with an idea for a wind-powered cargo ship modeled on rotating sail technology used in the then-largest luxury yacht in the world, the Maltese Falcon, which hit the water in 2006 using DynaRig sails.
DynaRig is rooted in a 1960’s concept for placing sails on a rotating mast. The heavy materials in use at the time prevented the concept from breaking into commercial application, but the introduction of lightweight carbon fiber and other new materials enabled DynaRig sails to slide into the superyacht market.
DynaRig also got a mention in CleanTechnica back in 2013, when the high-end yacht company Oceanco came up with an idea for deploying a ship equipped with both solar panels and DynaRig technology.
Despite Oceanco nailing down the Solar name, it looks like Eco Marine Power could still have bragging rights to the first integrated wind + solar ship. It’s pretty hard to spot where Solar is hiding its solar panels, and there doesn’t seem to be much room for them on deck considering all the superyacht extras crowding for a spot in the sun:
“A spa pool aft of the main deck and a large hot tub aft of the upper deck are amongst the key known features on the 106-meter yacht. Two tenders are further located on the bow of the yacht with covers placed on top of them. Aft of the yacht is a fold-down platform that likely leads to a beach club.”
The Eco Marine Power Solar + Wind Power Solution
CleanTechnica’s sister site Gas2.org spotted Eco Marine Power’s wind + solar concept in the feasibility study phase last winter, and it looks like the results are promising enough to step it up a notch.
The company recently announced that it is preparing for sea trials of its Aquarius MRE (the MRE stands for Marine Renewable Energy) technology in partnership the marine shipping company Hisafuku Kisen K.K. of Japan.
Here’s the rundown from EMP:
“Aquarius MRE is an advanced integrated system of rigid sails, marine-grade solar panels, energy storage modules and marine computers that will enable ships to tap into renewable energy by harnessing the power provided by the wind and sun.”
Eco Marine Power is deploying its own EnergySail rigid sails to double as both wind and solar harvesters.
Unlike the DynaRig sails, which can retract by scrolling, EnergySail modules are truly rigid. They don’t furl like a flexible sail, but they can be lowered in stormy weather or other emergencies.
Other partners in the project are KEI System Co. Ltd., The Furukawa Battery Company, and Teramoto Iron Works Co. Ltd., which is known for its experience in rigid sail production dating back to the 1980’s.
Three existing cargo ships — Belgrano, Nord Gemini, and Bulk Chili are in the running to be the first to carry an Aquarius MRE system.
Shipping is just one of the marine applications that Eco Marine Power has in mind for EnergySail.
Here’s some others:
“It could be for example used as a stand-alone unit on a cable laying vessel, coastal tanker or oceanographic ship. In addition a simplified version of the Aquarius MRE System including a modified EnergySail could be utilised on a range of smaller vessels. An alternative version of the EnergySail could also be used horizontally.”
In addition, Eco Marine Power notes that EnergySail modules can harvest solar power while a ship is at berth. That’s an important advantage over conventional sails in the context of air quality management at shipping ports and other marine locations.
We’ll have to wait a while to see if the real-world tests live up to the concept, as the company anticipates a seagoing study phase of 12–18 months.
If the results come close to the Aquarius Eco Ship concept, the impact on marine emissions could be significant whether or not the ship is at sea.
The concept includes enough solar power + storage to eliminate the use of auxiliary diesel generators in port.
At sea, the company anticipates that the system could result in a fuel savings of at least 40%, leading to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.