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Wind Power Looked At to Make Shipping Greener, But Challenges Remain

Could wind power help power tomorrow’s shipping vessels as shippers look to become more environmentally-friendly?

Alternative energy sources in shipping is quickly becoming mainstream. For example, the New York Times is out with a new article on wind energy and how it can help shipping in the near future as climate change becomes a major focus. Among the developments discussed are agricultural giant Cargill’s new focus on greener shipping with a testing program for a new vessel assisted by wind for power.

Cargill’s new vessel Pyxis OceanĀ has technology that allows it to be “wind-assisted” – that is sail partially on wind power. It uses “wing turbines” that allow it to use the wind to generate some of the electricity it needs to run. According to a Cargill executive profiled in the Times, the turbines can reduce fuel usage by 3 tons per day, which definitely makes an impact on emissions.

Also profiled in the article is another design for a wind-assisted shipping vessel that is “kite-like”.

A vessel that is equipped with a large kite flown from 1,000 feet high is being developed and tested by Airseas, a company based in France. If rolled out commercially, it could save up to 40% on fuel consumption.

Despite the testing and prototypes available today, obstacles remain towards clean and green wind power.

For one, wind power cannot easily be stored and generation is almost entirely dependent on weather conditions. At sea, weather conditions are always subject to rapid change. Additionally, wind turbines and related equipment can easily be damaged in tropical weather systems or certain weather events. Therefore, further steps have to be considered for a full and safe rollout, meaning wind power won’t be powering the ocean shipping industry for some type until architectural and safety conditions are met.

Finally, in order to roll the technology out to a wide array of vessels to make a meaningful difference, shipping lines will have to make systemwide changes to their vessels in order to retrofit certain equipment. Getting shippers to pay these costs will be challenging.


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