With the shipping industry estimated to be responsible for about 2.1% of global carbon dioxide emissions, the hunt is on for greener technology to reduce those numbers.
Eyeing a possible solution in what could prove to be a pivotal moment for the industry, shipping firm Cargill has retrofitted a cargo ship with enormous, rigid “WindWings” sails designed to slash fuel consumption.
The Pyxis Ocean vessel is now on its maiden voyage from China to Brazil to put the technology through its paces ahead of a possible rollout for the commercial shipping industry. The journey is expected to take around six weeks.
The 123-foot-tall sails are made from the same material used for wind turbines for maximum durability, folding down when the ship is in port and opening up when it’s out on the open sea.
The technology is the creation of British firm BAR Technologies. Its CEO, John Cooper, said that Cargill got in touch and asked if it could invent a wind propulsion system for its ships. “They arguably know more about shipping than BAR Tech; we’re the techie guys knowing how to invent things and that partnership has been really, really strong.”
Using wind power rather than engine power could reduce a ship’s emissions by 30% over its lifetime, according to Cargill.
“The maritime industry is on a journey to decarbonize; it’s not an easy one, but it is an exciting one,” said Cargill president Jan Dieleman. “At Cargill we have a responsibility to pioneer decarbonizing solutions across all our supply chains to meet our customers’ needs and the needs of the planet.”
The WindWings project is co-funded by the European Union as part of the CHEK Horizon 2020 initiative and offers a retrofit solution to decarbonize existing vessels.
The performance of the WindWings on the Pyxis Ocean will be carefully monitored during its voyage, with the gathered data helping engineers refine the design, operation, and performance of the sails before potentially bringing the technology to other cargo ships across the industry.