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Sailing to the Future?

SkySails
Source: SkySails

Published Sep 15, 2015 1:07 AM by The Maritime Executive

As the maritime industry implements stricter emissions guidelines, shippers are increasingly seeking cleaner methods of transportation. And one enterprising German company has introduced what could be a simple solution that pleases both shipping companies and environmentalists alike: kites.

SkySails, which was founded in 2001, has developed a kite wind propulsion system for large cargo ships.

“Wind is the cheapest, most powerful, and greenest source of energy on the high seas,” SkySails says in a report. “Now, with SkySails, modern cargo ships can use the wind as a source of power – not only to lower fuel costs but significantly reduce emission levels as well.”

A towing kite is at the core of SkySails’ propulsion system and, coupled with a control pod and towing rope, it forms what the company refers to as its “flying system.” The kite is steered by the control pod and maneuvered in the air ahead of the ship to generate propulsion.

The system generates up to 2,000 kilowatts of propulsion power, which is 25 times more energy per square meter than conventional wind propulsion systems. And the system is said to be cheaper than conventional engines too. According to SkySails, one kilowatt hour of their wind power costs just six cents for ships to use, which is about half the cost of the vessel’s main engine.

Installing SkySails on a vessel costs about $2.5 million, and there are currently only two ships using it. But the company believes that will soon change as the industry looks to reduce operating costs. “There is enormous, free wind energy potential on the high seas,” said Gerd Wessels, a SkySails Managing Partner. “With SkySails, we can cut fuel consumption of our ships in half on good days and save an average of 10-15 percent in fuel every year.”

SkySails is headquartered in Hamburg, Germany.

Click here for SkySails’ full report.