During the 2023 GREEN4SEA Athens Forum, Mr. Gavin Allwright, Secretary General, International Windship Association (IWSA), highlighted that wind propulsion has been extensively researched, tested, discussed, piloted and by some, dismissed throughout the last decade.
hen we talk about wind propulsion, we refer to direct wind energy used for propulsion which is a pure zero emissions energy source, abundant around the world globally and available today. It can be delivered directly to the ship at the point of use without the need to mine it, refine it, transport it, bunker it, or store it on board. In essence, it is very different energy source with zero cost among other benefits.
It’s very difficult to have a crystal ball and see the future; however, what I can see is that there is future for this option. We can see that it has zero cost today, at also at the end of the life of the ship and even when you take the system off the ship and put it on another ship you will still have another lifetime of zero emissions at zero costs as well!
So, it is a very useful energy source. The technology to harvest this energy source is of course not free but it will pay for itself. It is the only propulsion system that will actually pay for itself as all other options will cost more than the fuels we use today and better not to think of it as an ‘Energy Efficiency’ measure. It is an energy provider that pays for itself with zero compatibility issues, meaning that you can put a wind propulsion system on any ship and use any other fuel you’d like. This is why we like to call that a ‘win-win-wind’ situation.
With regards to what wind power delivers: firstly, a retrofit can deliver up to 20 percent of propulsive energy required but remember that is for a motor vessel operational profile without changing your route or changing your speed, if you do those, then you can optimize it even further . Secondly, with a primary wind, meaning a ship that has wind as it’s main power source backed up by engines, then you can get far higher percentages. They’re actually even climate positive ships that are being developed which harvest excess wind energy to produce zero-emissions fuel that can be stored onboard as a cargo.
The seven wind- propulsion technologies groups fall into the following categories;
- Hard sails
- Soft sails & Dynarigs
- Suction wings
- Hull form
Wind propulsion as a primary propulsive energy provider does not have a complex structure to deliver that energy unlike that for engine power. In this context, we have adopted the ‘Hybrid W.A.V.E.’ approach to decarbonization, featuring:
- Wind – Retrofits and newbuilds
- Activity – routing, speed, training, blockchain, business models etc
- Vessel – optimisation, energy efficiency, design, EMS, EPL
- Eco fuel – power-to-X, biofuel, battery etc.
For example, if we were to mandate wind propulsion across the fleet today – i.e. retrofitting all the ships, new ships coming with wind propulsion on board – we can easily deliver 20%+ of the energy requirement for the fleet. Then, if we look at voyage optimization, the training of our crew and so on along with adjusting our business and operational models, then these can deliver another 20%+in energy requirement reduction. Then we look at the vessel’s optimization, energy efficiency etc. which collectively will deliver another 20%+in savings. Thus, collectively sixty percent can be delivered today using technologies and operational changes that we can apply today. Then, we look at the fuels where we have an additionally 20%+, maybe up to 40%. It is a very different way round of looking at the decarbonisation challenge while at the moment all of the attention is on alternative fuels, instead we need to be looking at energy.
In conclusion, if we mandated this 20% of wind across the fleet this decade the savings on fuel alone by 2050 would deliver the existingIMO 2050 target without any trouble as it would be saving around one trillion dollars which has been estimated by the highly respected UMAS/UCL and the Energy Transitions Commission. It would also decrease the amount of fuel, storage and infrastructure we actually need. So, those saving would then start creeping up towards the full cost of decarbonizing in this sector, currently estimated at $1.4-1.9 trillion just by mandating wind propulsion on every ship this decade!
Interestingly, we can therefore decarbonize and on a macro level with no additional costs because, as I have already mentioned, it pays for itself and it’s a free energy source.
Wind propulsion: where we stand
By March 2023, there were 24 large ships installed with wind assist systems and more than 20 small sail cargo, fisheries & cruise vessels in operation, apart from container ships. At the moment, that is about 1.5 million deadweight tons of shipping with wind assist systems on board.
We had eight installations last year; actually, it was six installations plus two wind-ready. This year, we will triple that number of installations and add approximately 2 million deadweight tons of shipping
We’re also seeing primary wind vessels starting to be built with the aim of those first ones entering the fleet in 2024.
Capital Ship Management has already taken delivery of three wind-ready chemical tankers with another three coming through its fleet in the next couple of months.Therefore, wind-ready is starting to be an option for ships and hopefully As instlaations increase, we have a levelized learning curve of around 10%, meaning that as installations double, so costs reduce by 10%, however much of that happens in the first few years therefore it is estimated that by 2026 to 2027, we’ll have a 50% reduction in the cost of producing the units and installation and rig prices will come down. We’re starting to see signs of maturity; production lines are moving over to China and we expect more investments in the production lines in Europe. We have already seen a couple of hundred million in investment going in to France at the moment.
However, there are still barriers with perception being one of the biggest. The price of fuel obviously remains a key issue but policy is now kicking in with decarbonisation targets, carbon pricing and other dirvers being discussed. It has been predicted that by 2030 in research doen for the EU, there will be between three thousand and ten thousand ships featuring wind propulsion on board. Furthermore, research undertaken for the UK government has forecast by 2050, 40% to 45% percent of all ships will have wind propulsion systems installed. At IWSA, we think these projections are conservative because they have only looked mainly at the bulker, tanker and container sectors, they didn’t consider general cargo, roro etc. Therefore, we actually think that this could go faster, however even though many systems can be retrofitted quite easily, probably one of the the biggest barriers to scaling quickly will be the available capacity for the shipyards and the ability for our members to actually ramp up production quickly. These are however well signposted challenges and the industry is already starting to adapt to meet them.
Above article has been edited from Mr. Gavin Allwright’s presentation during the 2023 GREEN4SEA Athens Forum.
Explore more by watching his video presentation here below
The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.