Japanese company Eco Marine Power is moving ahead with plans to equip ocean-going cargo ships with rigid sails embedded with solar panels. Called Energy sails, they will allow the ships to take advantage of both wind and solar power at sea and while in port to provide emissions-free loading and unloading energy capability. The EnergySails can be stowed during rough weather to avoid damage from wind and waves.
The company proposes to combine its EnergySails with solar panels mounted on the hatch covers of large bulk carrier ships into what it calls an “advanced integrated system of rigid sails, marine-grade solar panels, energy storage modules, and marine computers.” The work is part of the Aquarius MRE project, which is a collaboration between Eco Marine Power, KEI Systems, Furukawa Battery, Teramoto Iron Works, and ship owner Hisafuku Kisen.
During 2018, Eco Marine Power will conduct a feasibility study that involves several large bulk carrier ships. The study will estimate the amount of propulsion energy the EnergySail arrays could provide on various routes and the total amount of solar panels that could be installed on each ship. After the study is completed, one ship will be selected for installation of a complete EnergySail system. That ship will then test the system during sea trials lasting 12 to 18 months. The EnergySails will be manufactured by Teramoto Iron Works in Onomichi, Japan.
Greg Atkinson, chief technology officer and founder of Eco Marine Power, says, “It’s great that we are able to cooperate with Hisafuku Kisen, and we very much appreciate their cooperation in helping us move this important project towards sea trials. 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.”
Coastal and ocean going cargo ships are major sources of global carbon emissions. Anything to lower their environmental impact will be welcome. Beyond territorial waters, ships are virtually unregulated and free to ignore governmental directives and emissions policies. Only if renewable energy reduces costs for shipping companies, will they invest the money needed to convert ships to low emissions strategies. If the data collected by Eco Marine Power can promise such reductions, interest from the shipping industry will increase dramatically.