Innovation & technology

Using Renewable Energy to Power the Ships

As compared to the other modes of transportation, naval transport makes up for about 80% of international trade. But it is also the one that creates a large part of the world’s CO2 emissions. While other modes of transportation are quickly making their way to go green, naval transport is yet to introduce sustainability. That said, there are many in itiatives around the world  to make ships greener and help cut down on the carbon footprint they leave behind.

Renewable Energy Options for Ships

There have been several attempts to explore renewable energy options for ships. These include the following:

Hybrid Marine Power Systems

Hybrid Marine Power (HMP) systems are energy efficient, they reduce airborne pollution, and consume less fuel. Eco Marine Power along with other partner companies are developing the Aquarius MRE that is an advanced integrated system of marine batteries, energy storage modules, solar panels, and rigid sails that will allow ships to tap into renewable energy by harnessing the power provided by the sun and wind. At the moment, this technology is not applicable for cargo ships as they simply lack the space for such setups.

Wind Energy

Harnessing wind energy is a challenging task for ships simply because they don’t have enough space to allow the installation of wind power integration systems. The good news is that a great advancement has been made in using wind energy via Flettner Rotors. These take up relatively less space and generate sufficient amount of energy. The rotors require little to no input from the ship’s crew as they are controlled by computer.

Hydrogen Fuels

Hydrogen fuels are very costly, but they are a viable option to look forward to. Countries like Japan and Norway have already begun investing in this market. Their goal is to successfully reduce the use of biofuels to 0% by 2050.

Eco-Friendly Concepts and Technologies

Many projects around the globe are aimed to use renewable energy to power the ships. The following are some of the promising technologies and concepts of an eco-friendly ship:

  • SkySails/Kite Ship: SkySails technology propels the ship forward via towing kites, reducing fuel consumption and engine load in the process.
  • Eco Marine Power: Eco Marine Power utilizes wind and solar energy in shipping. It features the Aquarius MRE System. Depending on the profile, type, and size of the vessel, the Aquarius MRE System will reduce fuel consumption by up to 40%. The patented EnergySail, that resides at the heart of the system, will allow ships to use wind and solar energy.
  • STX Eoseas: Developed by STX Europe, STX Eoseas is a state-of-the-art cruise ship concept. The aim of the project is to use marine clean technologies to reduce ash by 100%, NOx by 90%, SO2 by 100%, CO2 emissions by 50%, and energy consumption by 50%.
  • NYK Super Eco Ship 2030: This is a zero-emission vessel concept aimed to be completed by 2030. The Eco Ship 2030 has many unique features, e.g., wind and solar energy usage, optimized hull shape for improved traction efficiency, weight reduction design, and more.

More research is currently being done for the advancement in renewable energy sources for ships.

Using renewable energy to power ships, particularly the naval cargo transport on which the economy of the globe relies so heavily, is our hope for a sustainable future.


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Photo by Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash

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