By Isabella Kaminski
Eco Marine Power’s Aquarius Solar and Wind Marine Power System will use specially designed rigid sail panels fitted with solar modules to collect wind and solar energy on-board large ships.
The Japan-based company says its decision to proceed with the development of the Aquarius system was made after an extensive feasibility study conducted in 2010. This study found that wind and solar power could be harnessed by ships in a cost-effective manner by using the latest solar module technology, a modern on-board control and navigation system, and an advanced rigid sail concept.
The on-board computer system will control how an array of rigid sail panels are deployed, enabling them to be positioned for the best use of the wind or to act as solar energy collectors depending on the prevailing weather conditions.
These panels will effectively allow large vessels such as oil tankers and bulk carriers to become part solar ships and part sailing ships. It will also be possible to use the rigid sail panels when the ship is at anchor or alongside in port. The technology’s safety features will include the ability to automatically stow the rigid sail panels during adverse weather conditions.
The system is being designed for use on a variety of ship types and vessel sizes using the same main system components. This will help reduce manufacturing costs and allow ship designers, naval architects and ship builders to incorporate the Aquarius system into current ship designs. Although the Aquarius system is being initially designed for large ships, much of the technology will also be suitable for smaller vessels such as coastal freighters, passenger ferries and tourist boats.
According to Eco Marine, a study is being conducted to determine the feasibility of using the system on naval and government vessels such as patrol ships. The company is working with partners in several countries to complete the detailed design and a prototype of the system is scheduled to be ready for preliminary testing in early 2012.