Tag Archives: transport

Skysails – Using wind to increase the power to ships

Sails like this can cut fuel use dramatically, as well as looking very coolThe Oil Drum has a fascinating article on the new developments by the German company SkySails. Their system flies a kite the size of a football field above a normal cargo vessel or tanker. The kites fly around 1000 metres up, where winds are higher and can help pull the ship along, cutting fuel needs and increasing speed. A German cargo firm, Beluga, will be making the first voyage using a SkySail this month.

“It marks the beginning of a revolution in the way that ships are powered,” said Stephan Wrage, the inventor of the SkySails idea. “We calculate that the sails can reduce fuel consumption by between 30 and 50 per cent, depending on the wind conditions. “The system could be applied to about 60,000 vessels out of the 100,000 or so listed in the Lloyd’s register. Bulk carriers, tankers — they could all benefit from the flying sails.”

The kite is computer controlled to get the best of the wind available and is attached to a rail running around the edge of the ship’s hull. The first test will use a 160 square metre sail and aim to save around 15% of available fuel. In later products the company aims to scale up to sails as big as 5000 square metres able to boost the speed of the biggest cargo vessel. With the kite sail pulling, the ship is able to spend less on the increasingly costly bunker fuel needed for engines. A US company, KiteSail, also produces a similar technology aimed more at the leisure market.

[via The Oil Drum]

Peak Oil may be closer than we think

Are tankers going to be lonely in future?As you may know, as a writer and blogger, Peak Oil is one of the topics that fascinates me, ultimately leading to the 30,000 word fictional blog miawithoutoil I wrote earlier this year for the World Without Oil project. This editorial from the Buffalo News is a great summary of Peak Oil as it enters the public consciousness. Another good frontpage diary at Daily Kos yesterday detailed a few excellent potential strategies from the Energize America project, which emerged from Daily Kos to be a major player in alternative energy related politics.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that sooner or later the resources of the planet will run out. Finite oil was always on the case, even when I was at school. But according to some writers like Richard Heinberg, we may be very close or even just past the peak in global oil production, even if it takes a few years for the news to filter down the supply lines and alert the wide world. A former Canadian oil CEO thinks we’re pretty close too.

We are already being encouraged to cut down on fuel use by environmental campaigners and everyone concerned with global warming. Peak Oil presents a natural brake on the climate change bandwagon but in a sudden stop, things will get very unstable. By encouraging smaller cars and smaller commutes, alternative fuels and increased public transport, as well as building shops, jobs and facilities closer to home and utilising the great advantages the internet gives us with telecommuting and virtual goods, we could create a world that would ride out the shrinking resource climate without capsizing. We’d better start soon.

[photo by Boback]