Boats Eco Marine Power develops wind and solar power system for cargo ships

Published on February 28th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


Wind-Powered Cargo Ships Make a Comeback

February 28th, 2011 by  

Eco Marine Power develops wind and solar power system for cargo shipsSailing ships once carried much of the world’s cargo across the seas, until canvas sheets were replaced by low-grade “bunker” oil. Now it appears that wind power is about to make a comeback, in the form of rigid “sails” that double as solar panels. The patent-pending technology, called the Aquarius Solar and Wind Marine Power System, is being developed by a company called Eco Marine Power. The dream of a high tech, sustainable energy cargo ship has been percolating for a number of years now, but it hasn’t caught on in a big way, so let’s see if this new system is The One.

Wind Power for Cargo Ships

At first blush, wind power for today’s ultra-huge cargo ships looks like a nice idea, but just not possible. The scale alone makes it seem impractical. However, that hasn’t stopped anyone from trying. In recent years a German company has come up with a parachute-like design for cargo ships that includes sails the size of football fields, and a British company has developed a more traditionally styled, rigging-free sail system for smaller cargo ships.

Wind and Solar Sails

Eco Marine’s solution is a bit of a twofer. Instead of flexible fabric sails it uses an array of rigid “sail panels” that double as solar collectors.  The incorporation of solar technology means that the ship can continue to harvest energy while in berth. If the technology proves itself, that gives rise to the potential for berthed cargo ships to contribute energy to the land grid, helping to cut down on the use of fossil fuels at ports. Aside from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this fits in with the U.S. EPA’s new focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants in coastal regions. Eco Marine expects a prototype to be tested early in 2012, so stay tuned.

Image: Sailing ship by Bruno Girin on

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • Jforrester

    Why do you advertise gas-guzzling 4 wheel drive vehicles on a ‘green’ site?

    • How do you think wind and solar farms and many other green technologies are built? They require work trucks to get supplies and people there. You can’t just replace everything with GREEN. Fuel is a requirement of our society that will be around for a very long time. Get used to it.

  • Dr.A.Jagadeesh


    In fact Sails for the ships was the origin for Windmills. There are interesting developments to revive the SAIL TECHNOLOGY for Ships. Here is excellent information on the subject:

    Sail-powered cargo ship test results in: It cut fuel by 20 percent, by Michael Kanellos , March 19, 2008 ,cnet NEWS:

    Sail power is back.
    The MV Beluga SkySails, a cargo ship rigged up with a billowing 160-meter sail from SkySails, used approximately 20 percent less fuel than it would have without the sail during a two-month voyage. Put another way, that’s 2.5 tons of fuel, or $1,000 a day, in operating costs. Beluga Shipping ultimately hopes to save $2,000 a day with the technology.
    The ship left Bremen, Germany, on the 22nd of January, sailed to Venezuela, and then headed toward the Norwegian port of Mo-I-Rana, docking on March 13. In all, the ship sailed 11,952 nautical miles. The sail was up, depending on the winds, from between 5 minutes and 8 hours a day.
    In the picture, look in the sky past the end of the ship. That’s the sail up there. The sail is attached to a tether that runs 100 to 300 meters long. This is an actual shot from the ship–until now, the company has had to use artists’ renderings.
    The company says that the sail, by their calculation, could cut fuel consumption by 10 to 35 percent on ocean voyages, depending on the conditions, the size of the ship, and other factors. More testing will be conducted this year. SkySails will double the size of the sails and attach them to larger, heavier ships. A big question will be how well the economics–buying a sail versus using diesel–work.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

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  • Hi all and thanks for your interest in the Aquarius System. We will be releasing further details in the months ahead about this system and others we are working on.

    By the way we have an images gallery open now which might be of interest to readers:


    Greg Atkinson
    Eco Marine Power Co. Ltd.

  • Hi Tina,

    At Greenheart we are in the final stages of design for a small sail/solar auxiliary cargo vessel that can handle shipping containers specically designed for the developing world.
    There are also a number of sail cargo vessels plying the oceans, a couple of very active ones are our friends on the Tres Hombres and CMTV fairwind wine

  • Chris Bowal

    Hi there!

    I’m Chris, and I’m a huge reader of your blog. Just wanted to let you know I love your writing! Keep it up!

    I’m a student at the University of Calgary, and just recently along with two other fellow students I created a video about our idea to make our University a greener place. Here’s a quick summary:

    “Revitalize sustainability measures, increase fitness and lessen the negative environmental impact of elevators by promoting existing stairway infrastructure through auditory/visual enhancements, nature themes, educational eco-facts and sustainability-focused features.”

    We would be honored if you could help us reach our goal of getting the most votes – the team that wins earns their university $100,000 to implement the environmental solution!!!

    If you could, please feature this story and help us build awareness to combat this growing dilemma. You can find our video at

    Thank you so much!!!

    Christopher Bowal
    Student at the University of Calgary

    • Tina Casey

      Hi Chris, good to hear from you. I can’t believe your video hasn’t gone viral yet (or maybe it has!) I’m passing your link along to our sister blogs at Important Media. Readers, you have to check this out, it’s really unbelievable. Come to think of it, your solution is kind of like Frank Lloyd Wright in reverse and for stairs instead of hallways — he was known for small, dark, uninviting hallways that you wouldn’t want to linger in, but if there were rainbows and paw prints and all sorts of cool things then you might want to go down the hallway just for fun. Good luck with your project and I hope you win!!

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