Using Renewable Energy for Greener Shipping
The trend towards using renewable and alternative energy sources on land has gathered momentum over the last decade or so as the general public and policy makers tackle the issues of pollution, energy security and climate change. However at sea, the shift towards the widespread adoption of alternative energy is only now beginning to take shape.
Over recent years the shipping industry has begun to seriously look at ways to reduce fossil fuel consumption and operate in a more environmentally friendly way. The concept of Green Shipping or Sustainable Shipping is now becoming an important issue for ship owners, shipping lines and ship builders globally.
In the 1970's and 1980's there were several ships fitted with rigid sails of various types with the aim of reducing fuel consumption. This was driven largely by the oil crisis in the 1970's which resulted in oil shortages and the price of oil soaring. However the oil crisis passed and as the prices fell in the 1980's the viability of rigid sails in terms of cost was undermined.
However Japanese ships such as the Shin Aitoku Maru and Usuki Pioneer did prove that rigid sails reduced fuel consumption. Although the rigid sail concept has been applied to a range of smaller vessels it has not gained widespread acceptance to date on either large ships or smaller vessels.
Another way to reduce fuel consumption on-board ships is through the use of solar power. Recent advances in solar cell and module design has lead to solar power becoming a cost effective fuel reduction option on pleasure boats, ferries and tourist vessels however on large ships the amount of fuel saved through the use of solar power alone is relatively small. So the idea of a commercially viable solar ship seems impractical at the moment..or is it?
Perhaps rather than having a ship with rigid sails or a ship with solar panels a better approach would be to design a system that could tap into the power of the wind and sun together. The challenge in developing such a solution is to overcome many of the practical problems entailed in trying to use sails or solar panels on large ships.
But there is a solution on the horizon - the Eco Marine Power (EMP) Aquarius MRE System. This innovative wind and solar marine renewable energy (MRE) solution is designed so that the practical limitations of using rigid sails and solar panels on ships are overcome.
A ship fitted with the Aquarius MRE System such as a bulk carrier, oil tanker or cargo ship will be partly a solar ship and partly a sail ship. These ships will be able to use wind and solar power together as a source of energy and propulsion (along with the ship's main engines) in order to reduce harmful emissions and lower fuel consumption. The this will make the ships better for business and better for the environment. On a large ship 1000 tonnes or more of bunker fuel could be saved a year by using the Aquarius MRE System.
The power of the wind & sun is harnessed via EMP's own rigid sail technology called the EnergySail. This unique unit can incorporate a number of renewable energy technologies and can be installed on wide variety of ships.The Aquarius MRE System is also being designed so that it will offer ship owners and operators an attractive return on investment (ROI) as this will help the technology gain widespread acceptance across the maritime industry.
The development of this system involves several companies both in Japan and overseas, thus making the project a truly international one.
(Aquarius MRE System & EnergySail are trademarks of Eco Marine Power Co. Ltd.)