Retrofitted large solid wind sails save three tonnes of fuel per day

The maritime industry is witnessing a significant shift towards sustainability, evidenced by the successful six-month sea trial of the Pyxis Ocean, a 43,000-tonne bulk freighter. This venture highlights a pivotal moment in shipping, blending traditional diesel power with the innovative use of automatic sails known as WindWings, developed by BAR Technologies. This combination not only promises a reduction in fuel consumption but also a significant decrease in carbon emissions, heralding a new era of greener, more efficient shipping.

Historically, the integration of sail and engine power is not novel. The earliest steamships combined these elements, reluctant to depend solely on the nascent technology of steam power. Despite the technological leaps in engine power, leading to the dominance of engine-powered behemoths in commercial shipping, the allure of wind propulsion as an auxiliary power source has persisted. This is largely due to its potential to reduce operational costs and environmental impact, albeit without the labor-intensive requirements of traditional sail power.

The Singapore-flagged Pyxis Ocean underwent a retrofit to include two WindWings for its extensive journey across multiple oceans and significant global capes, including Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope, from August 2023. These WindWings differ substantially from conventional sails. Constructed from steel and glass fibers, standing at 37.5 meters tall, they are designed to fold and unfold automatically, harnessing wind power to supplement the vessel’s diesel engines.

Wind-powered Pyxis Ocean WindWings Height
With a height of 37.5 meters, the WindWings on the Pyxis Ocean harness wind power to enhance ship efficiency. Images courtesy Cargill

A key feature of the WindWings is their low maintenance, operated through a simple red/green traffic system on the bridge, signaling when to activate or deactivate them. Once deployed, they autonomously adjust to the wind’s direction and intensity, optimizing the ship’s speed while allowing for reduced diesel engine use.

This innovative approach enabled the Pyxis Ocean to achieve a daily fuel saving of three tonnes, corresponding to an 11.2-tonne daily reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. This accomplishment equates to the environmental benefit of removing 480 cars from the road for the duration of the voyage, alongside a general savings of 14% in fuel consumption.

Wind-powered Pyxis Ocean WindWings Parts
A WindWing consists of three parts: a middle section 10 meters wide flanked by two 5-meter wide elements, all working together.

The successful application of WindWings on the Pyxis Ocean represents a promising development in maritime transport, with implications for fuel efficiency and emission reduction across the industry. John Cooper, CEO of BAR Technologies, underscored the significance of these results: “The results of the Pyxis Ocean’s first voyage with WindWings installed clearly demonstrate that wind assisted propulsion can secure significant fuel savings and emissions reduction. For example, in near optimum sailing conditions, during an open sea voyage, the Pyxis Ocean achieved fuel savings of 11 tonnes per day. And while the Pyxis Ocean has two WindWings, we anticipate the majority of Kamsarmax vessels will carry three wings, further increasing the fuel savings and emissions reductions by a factor of 1.5. With Cargill, we are now able to validate our performance predictions and modeling in real-world conditions, it’s an exciting time as we begin to roll out WindWings production globally.”

Cargo Ship Multiple WindWings
Equipped with two WindWings, the Pyxis Ocean achieved a daily fuel saving of three tonnes, a number expected to rise by 50% with the addition of a third WindWing.

This initiative not only validates the operational efficiencies and environmental benefits of WindWings but also sets the stage for wider adoption in the shipping industry. As efforts continue to ensure compatibility with global shipping ports, the Pyxis Ocean’s journey marks a significant step towards the integration of sustainable practices in maritime logistics.

Source: Cargill

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