Transition is in the Wind!

Apr 27, 2021 | Featured Article, SeaFirst

Transition is in the Wind!

With a lot of attention and investment going into alternative, low emission fuel development Gavin Allwright, Secretary General of the International Windship Association (IWSA), look at how the return of wind propulsion can avoid becoming an ‘also ran’ technology segment.

Q: What has been the uptake of this technology and what is behind a spate of recent public announcements?

A: To answer this headline question, I have to start with the fact that IWSA and its members welcome the developments in alternative fuels as they are vital to carbon neutral and ultimately zero-emissions vessels. The term ‘also ran’ is actually perfect, but in a positive sense. Wind propulsion systems are compatible with all other energy sources and all retrofit installations, and newbuilds are ‘hybrid’ systems by their very nature. As retrofits they can deliver 5-20% of the propulsive energy to a ship with the potential to reach 30% (derived on a motorship operation profile without operational changes), whereas newbuilds can deliver 50% or more and be primary wind vessels with auxiliary engines. It is obvious wind can’t do the job alone, however the same can be said about these new fuels that we are asking to do some very heavy lifting in decarbonising the fleet.

Whether you are paying $350 a ton for HFO or $1,000 for the equivalent in a green alternative fuel, you are still paying for fuel. With a wind propulsion component it is possible to decouple a portion of your energy requirement from the fuel markets, with that zero-emissions energy delivered to the point of use at zero cost, with zero need for storage on board and zero infrastructure required on shore – and that energy predictably remains at zero cost for the lifetime of the vessel.

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