A three-year project backed by the Scottish Government and industry will develop and test fully automated sail technology that can be retrofitted to merchant ships.
UK-based Smart Green Shipping (SGS) has launched a £5m research and development project for its FastRig wing sail technology and digital routing software that will harness the power of wind to deliver fuel and emissions savings for the shipping industry.
The collaborative programme has been made possible by a £3.2m investment from the private sector, which unlocked a further £1.8m grant from Scottish Enterprise.
SGS founder Diane Gilpin said: “Scotland’s decision to support this project shows that wind technology has the might of a maritime nation behind it. Shipping has a long history of harnessing the power of wind, but digital technologies are allowing us to work towards making zero emission vessels a reality. Smart Green Shipping’s FastRig wing sail technology offers a financially and technically robust solution to help support shipping’s green transition.”
Over the course of the project, SGS will initially test its FastRig wing sails at a land-based site at Peel Ports Hunterston Port and Resource Centre in collaboration with Clyde-based specialist engineering partner Malin. It will further develop its weather routing TradeWind software that creates route plans for wind optimisation. Following successful land-based tests, a demonstrator on board a vessel is expected by 2023. Other industry partners include Drax and Lloyd’s Register, which has granted first-stage approval in principle for the FastRig technology, which augments a ship’s powertrain.
SGS said the FastRig technology is expected to benefit up to 40,000 vessels in the global merchant fleet, primarily bulker and tanker ships. Modelling tests, undertaken by SGS in conjunction with the University of Southampton’s Wolfson Unit, have shown that the technology could create at least 20% fuel savings and GHG reductions for retrofits, with as much as 50% fuel savings possible for small and medium-sized newbuild ships.
The three-year project will address barriers to wider industry uptake of the technology, with a host of technical, digital and financing solutions. In addition to creating agreements with renewables finance providers to fund installations of the technology onboard ships, the SGS team is developing insurance products that will give confidence of predictable financial returns to commercial operators.
The TradeWind tool has been optimised to gather data that will allow vessels to maximise the use of wind for a journey and optimise a vessel’s routing to minimise fuel consumption and arrive at a port at a designated time, SGS said. Data from Tradewind can be used to underpin charter agreements as well as secure private funding to lease the technology.
The FastRig technology has been developed alongside industry, with a year-long InnovateUK and Institute of Mechanical Engineers-backed feasibility study in 2018 and consultations with the wider shipping industry to overcome obstacles to adopting the innovation, including funding mechanisms. SGS developed its digital tools to predict and optimise wind-use in shipping in collaboration with the European Space Agency business incubation centre in 2019.