Commercial ‘kite-flying’ saves energy

Imagine you are on-board Admiral Nelson’s ship on a bright sunny day and watching those great white sails flapping in the wind. And now imagine these sails on one of today’s enormous container ships. Some cargo companies are now looking at these traditional methods to save energy and reduce fuel costs.

Sea transportation gives about 90 per cent of world trade, and the shipping industry emits about 5 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Therefore energy savings and emission reductions are crucial within this market segment.

The first trial on the MV Beluga SkySails used a 160-metre kite in 2008, on a route between Germany and Venezuela. With this special attachment the company managed to save 20 per cent of the fuel.

The kite for the trial was developed by SkySails, which in 2011 received its second Sustainable Shipping Awardin the category “Environmental Technology of the Year” for their innovation.


Since 2008 the company has partnered with a number of transportation companies, and even Cargill, one of the major shipping firms, has agreed to attach “sails” to some of their ships next year, including the world’s largest kite of 320 m2.

Another market player is the B9 Energy Group, which is planning to market renewable-energy driven ships, combining biofuel and wind energy used by sails for powering their vessels.

Furthermore, there are some companies who have taken things one step further and combine solar and wind power on large cargo ships. Eco Marine Power is developing the Aquarius Wind and Solar Power System, which should include several rigid sails and solar panels, always positioned in the best direction. According to initial estimates the solution would reduce fuel consumption by 10-20 per cent, while the prototype is planned to be tested for the first time in 2012.

As more and more companies believe that peak oil has been reached, fuel costs are rising, operation costs are becoming ever more crucial and global consumption does not seem to decrease, more and more cargo companies may opt for cost-saving sails. Sailing may become a widespread commercial shipping solution – once again.

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

Image: SkySales


2 Responses to “Commercial ‘kite-flying’ saves energy”

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