WindWings latest: retrofitting cargo ships with rigid sails

15th March 2024
Sheryl Miles

Introducing large, rigid sails to cargo ship Pyxis Ocean has led to notable decreases in both fuel usage and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

BAR Technologies, the designer of the WindWings, plans to enhance the technology by using three sails in future models, aiming to further increase fuel and emissions savings.

The retrofitted sails are made from the same material as wind turbine blades which can be folded while in port and then extended to stand at 37.5m in height at sea, allowing for significant operational flexibility and efficiency.

The Pyxis ocean’s six-month trial

The trial of the UK-developed WindWings on the ship over a six-month period has demonstrated the potential for wind power to make a meaningful impact on the carbon footprint of the shipping industry.

During its voyage across the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the North and South Atlantic, the Pyxis Ocean reported an average daily fuel saving of three tonnes, which translates into a daily reduction of 11.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions when the sails were deployed. Projected over a year, it could mean the equivalent of removing 480 cars from the road, states shipping firm, Cargill, offering a glimpse into the environmental benefits of the technology.

However, despite the encouraging outcomes from the trial, the adoption of this technology across the global shipping fleet remains minimal.

The challenge of decarbonisation

The shipping industry is responsible for a notable portion of global CO2 emissions, with international shipping accounting for 837 million tonnes of emissions annually. This figure represents 2.1% of global emissions, and underscores the importance of innovative solutions like WindWings.

Cargill has expressed optimism about the role of wind-harnessing technologies in achieving decarbonisation goals, and the company is actively working with over 250 ports worldwide to accommodate ships equipped with these sails.

Retrofitting as a viable option

The successful retrofitting of the Pyxis Ocean highlights the feasibility of adapting existing vessels with new technologies, and with the shipping industry facing long lead times for new builds, retrofitting offers a practical path towards decarbonisation.

Beyond rigid sails, the industry is investigating other energy-saving technologies, such as flettner rotors. However, with over 114,000 vessels in the global fleet, only a small fraction currently employs wind-assisted technology according Stephen Gordon, Managing Director, Clarksons Research – a maritime data firm.

The promising results from the Pyxis Ocean’s trial with WindWings seems to offer immediate environmental benefits and allows the shipping industry to meet the challenge of reducing fossil fuel dependence fast.

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