In the automotive industry, manufacturers are looking for
alternative ways to conserve energy with hybrids and hydrogen-fuel cell
technology. Aircraft designers are using lightweight materials and
more efficient engines to cut down on fuel consumption. Now we're seeing
that a German company is looking
to the past to conserve energy with today's cargo ships.
SkySails GmbH & Co. KG has undertaken four years of
trial runs with its 160 square-meter "SkySail." The SkySail is
attached to a mast at the front of the ship and is said to reduce fuel costs by
15 to 20% by using wind power.
"I got the idea on a sail boat a few years ago. I love
flying kites and found sailing rather slow. I thought the enormous power in
kites could somehow be utilized," said Stephan Wrage, inventor and founder
Beluga Shipping is a believer in the technology and is
currently having its "MV Beluga SkySails" vessel outfitted with a
sail and a computer-controlled central steerage unit. The ship will make its
maiden voyage early next year. Beluga Shipping CEO Neils Stolberg estimates
the SkySail will drop his company's $7,500 daily fuel bill to $6,000.
"You've got to look at new ideas to cope with
developments in oil prices," said Stolberg. "When energy prices
double in such a short time, you've got to innovate. We won't be able to switch
the engines off. But we're confident we can reduce fuel usage -- and cut