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All ships used to travel around the world driven by the power of the wind buffeting against their sails. Nowadays cargo ships travel, admittedly much faster, by burning diesel in huge engines to drive propellers, and emit huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. With the current focus on reducing carbon emissions, which has led to hybrid vehicles, it is about time someone started to build hybrid ships.
Back in 2008 a hybrid cargo ship was chartered by the US Navy to deliver supplies from Europe to the US. The MS Beluga SkySail used a giant kite to help power the freighter along when wind conditions were favourable. It took two months to complete the voyage, a bit longer than normal, but the use of wind power enabled the ship to save about $1000 a day.
However, since then little progress has been made into the idea of wind powered cargo ship; until now. A new concept has been designed by a team at the University of Tokyo which uses huge telescopic sails set along the deck of the freighter.
The sails will be made from 5 sheets of aluminium and fibre reinforced plastic, and will each stand 164 feet tall and 65 feet wide. The 5 sheets which make up each sail will be individually controlled by motors to be raised or lowered depending on the strength of the wind, or turned on an angel in order to catch the most wind.
Kiyoshi Uzawa, the professor in charge of the team, said that they predict their sails will cut fuel consumption by about 30 percent. They have already performed several simulations for common routes, such as Yokohama to Seattle and found that the ships only used about two thirds of the normal fuel consumption.
At $2.5 million for each sail, they are not cheap, but with the expected fuel savings the cost should be made back within five to ten years (although there is no mention as to the life-span of the sails).
The next step for Uzawa and his team is to build a half-sized prototype for sea trials in 2016.
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com
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James Burgess studied Business Management at the University of Nottingham. He has worked in property development, chartered surveying, marketing, law, and accounts. He has also…