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A Real-World Example of Wind Power in Shipping Comes to Fruition

For the first time, there is real-world data that shows that wind power could be a viable source of energy to power container ships in the near future.

Encouraging data has been released on using wind power for powering a cargo ship, according to the BBC. We had previously reported last year that agricultural giant Cargill was planning on testing wind power for one of its vessels, Pyxis Ocean. Now, testing has taken place with good results.

Over the past six months, the Pyxis Ocean was fitted with “WindWings”, which are essentially giant sails. Cargill now reports that the vessel’s fuel consumption was down, and carbon emissions also decreased. In its own words, Cargill says the results “underscore the potential” for wind to change the trajectory of the shipping industry and its quest to reduce emissions for a greener future.

What is so special about these “sails” versus traditional sailboats?

The so-called “WindWings” are produced in the United Kingdom, and are more similar to wind turbines than traditional sails used on sailboats. In fact, these “sails” are made from the same material used to produce the blades for wind turbines used by wind farms.

Right now, Cargill has tested the technology on a select few vessels with Pyxis Ocean being the most prominent. It says the results are encouraging and will lead to wider adoption. The “WindWings” are over 120 feet total when the ship is sailing.

What did the results of the months-long test show?

Conducting a months-long test voyage with the “WindWings”, the Pyxis Ocean required 3 fewer tons of fuel every day it was sailing. Cargill uses a cool example for showing real-world impact: this smaller fuel volume produces the same lower volume of emissions as removing almost 500 cars from highways.

For context, the shipping industry is a leading source of toxic emissions, and efforts have been made in recent years to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as sulphur emissions.

The big challenge for shipping is rolling out the new “sails” worldwide across many ports and vessels. That process, Cargill warns, could take decades. But, Cargill is confident the real-world impacts can be felt almost immediately if other vessels are retrofitted for the new technology. Right now, about 100 out of over 110,000 new shipping vessels being built or entering service, is fitted with the new technology.


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