Wind or at least hybrid propulsion

ok…let’s discuss what might work in the modern world to propel a ship in a trading service?

sails of any configuration? Flettner rotors? wind turbines? solar panels? various combinations of these?

A steel hull with a schooner sail plan which is the most versatile and least labor intensive. Currently the most reliable means of mechanical propulsion is a diesel engine. Expecting to be able to provide reliable service using wind or solar alone at this stage is a pipe dream and a wood hull is self sabotage.

Whatever happened to kites, either computer controlled or mechanically self stabilizing? I thought the concept held a lot of promise when it first appeared, mostly because it allows a much lower center of pressure, largely disconnecting the possible sail area from available deck space and righting moment, which are the chief limiting factors in determining sailing ship performance. There’s also the advantage of lower air draft, which could be significant.

here is one concept

None of those are intended to power a ship across oceans alone. They are a means of reducing fuel consumption when conditions are right. (The same goes for Kites and wave power)

It is not necessarily any of the traditional riggings that will be used on wind powered trading ships. In Fact it is highly unlikely. (Except for small project and nostalgic reasons)

Here is a closer look at one of the projects that is in the running:

There are several such projects being proposed by serious actors. Which one, or whether any of them will materialize in it’s concept form, is left to be seen.

One thing for sure; the negative attitude to anything and everything new and different by grumpy old men, is not going to make or break any of these projects.

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I’m all for developing new technologies to reduce harmful emissions but I took the modern world in c.cap’s post to mean the one we currently live in, not one somewhere in the future. In the world we live in, those are still on the drawing board. We can argue the validity of these new concepts until the cows come home but as you say, whether they materialize or not remains to be seen.

I believe we have technology in hand today to have a 100% emissions free ship but the trade offs would be very numerous which likely would kill the economical viability of such a ship. Size would be limited, cost to build potentially greater than if fitted with diesels, obviously slower speed thus fewer voyages per year. Then there is the hybrid ship which likely would be diesel electric using engines only when needed but wind/solar to move the ship when conditions are favorable. In certain trades, those conditions are available pretty much all the time.

For example?

in the tropics…lots of sunshine and tradewinds

I’d keep an eye on Maersk, they have this as a stated goal and seem to have the capital and corporate will to keep researching.

Maersk also figured out we’ve probably reached the limits of hull design hydrodynamic efficiency and intentionally reduced the design hull speed when they were building the Triple E class to cut fuel consumption.

I read an interesting paper a few years back on thermoelectric generators. Power generation induced by heat gradient in bi-metals. I think it is generally small voltages/wattages, but with heat from diesels/exhaust (or even sun on steel deck) and an unlimited heat-sink (ocean) I wonder if it’s scalable.

Not sure solar is efficient enough for meaningful impact yet, but besides the glare on the bridge, imagine all that deck surface you wouldn’t have to chip and paint anymore!

Imagine all the bird shit one would have to clean off to keep the panels working.


Super handy when going in the same direction. Like that sailboat being built in Costa Rica. A sleigh ride from Vancouver going south and misery going north unless you take the time to sail most of the way to Hawaii on the way back. I don’t see it being practical if you have any intention of keeping a schedule.

Better for a run perpendicular to the trades.

That’s the only way I see it being feasible.

For large ships on ocean voyages the solution is to use hydrogen, ammonia or other forms of carbon free fuel produced using renewable energy.
The discussion is ongoing to find the best one.In the Future Marine Fuel thread many different alternatives has been presented:

Sail, solar, kites and batteries are only as additional power to reduce fuel consumption and thus GHG emission when using conventional fuel.

LNG or LPG is also just a way to reduce GHG emission, not to eliminate it, thus not meeting the 2050 target of carbon neutral shipping.

Wind power MAY be able to reach that goal in some trades and where speed and regularity is not at an essence, but most likely in combination with other sources of power.

Fuel cells with large enough capacity to power large ships are under development and being tested.

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