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Efforts to Accelerate the Development of Wind Propulsion Technologies

wind propullsion technology
Oceanwings concept (courtesy of AYRO)

Published Feb 19, 2021 6:51 PM by The Maritime Executive

Wind power is emerging as a contender among the race to develop new sustainable solutions that address the concerns for the environment and reducing emissions from the shipping industry. This week alone, three wind-powered programs advanced while the International Windship Association (IWSA) announced a new initiative to accelerate the adoption of hybrid alternative propulsion methods. The association looks to programs that blend wind, alternative fuels, and energy efficiency measures to achieve measurable decarbonization of the global shipping industry.

According to the IWSA, there are currently 11 large ocean going vessels with wind assist systems installed and more than 20 rigs installed along with two more installations pending this quarter. Further, there are more than 20 smaller cargo ships using wind technology as well as sail-powered cruise ships. By 2023, they expect that over 40 large wind propulsion equipped vessels will be in operation.

“The EU has forecast that up to 10,700 wind propulsion installations could be in place by 2030, and the UK Clean Maritime Plan forecasts that wind propulsion technologies will become a £2billion ($2.8 billion) a year segment, with approximately 30,000 installations (equivalent to 40-45 percent market penetration) by the 2050s,” says Gavin Allwright, IWSA Secretary General.

Among the new technologies being advanced is the Oceanwings 3.6.3 wind assisted propulsion system from the French company AYRO. They were recently awarded an Approval in Principle (AiP) from DNV GL. After a review of the main plans and documents of the Oceanwings 3.6.3 system against the relevant rules for the classification of ships, DNV GL issued the AiP statement confirming that no significant obstacles exist to prevent the concept from being realized.

According to AYRO, the system will enable ship owners and operators to leverage wind energy to improve the energy balance of individual vessels and fleets, thereby significantly reducing carbon emissions. The wind propulsion system is a 363 square meter 2-elements wingsail several of which can be installed onboard vessels to effectively add wind power to the propulsion. Following 10 years of research, the first prototype in 2017, and the industrial demonstrator Energy Observer in 2019, AYRO is now manufacturing four Oceanwings to be fitted on “Canopée”, a RoRo vessel under construction
at Neptune Marine Shipyard. She will be commissioned towards the end of 2022 by French shipowner Jifmar Guyane and operated by Alizee, a joint-venture company between Jifmar and Zephyr & Borée, to transport part of the Ariane 6 rocket program being developed for the European Space Agency.

“Oceanwings are suitable for most types of cargo vessels, says Ludovic Gérard, CEO of AYRO. “We continue to receive a lot of inquiries and numerous requests for feasibility studies from shipowners and charterers worldwide, for both retrofits and new building projects. Our mission and vision is to support them in designing their vessels as well as fitting and maintaining the Oceanwings in order to help them meet the challenges of competitiveness and GHG emission reductions. ''

The famed French shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique this week also announced that it was making progress with its solid sail concept. To further validate the design concepts and move it toward commercialization, the shipyard said it will install test versions of the mast, rigging, and sail at its yard in St. Nazaire.

RoRo ship owner and operator Wallenius Wilhelmsen also unveiled the beginnings of its designs to commercialize the concept of the world’s largest sailing ship that would transport cars, vehicles, and machinery across the Atlantic. 

The IWSA is calling this the “Decade of Wind Propulsion,” launching its new campaign to focus on the delivery, optimization, and facilitation of wind propulsion. The organization will release a comprehensive market report and other information campaigns to support the development of the technology.