The year 2023 is shaping up as the year wind propulsion manufacturers go global with their ambitions. The latest expansion news within the wind-assist ship propulsion sector comes from the Netherlands where two regional government bodies have provided support to Econowind so that it can upscale the size of its VentoFoils (pictured).
VentoFoils to date have been installed on short-sea ships since the first one was manufactured seven years ago. Described as an aluminium vertical aircraft wing, the 16 m high sails have proven popular in northern Europe. Now, Econowind is working to develop 30 m high steel wings designed for deepsea trades. With the new investment the aim is to be finishing one sail every day by 2027. The company is also looking to add artificial intelligence into its control systems. Information about the wind will be integrated into the models. Wind forecasts will be converted into direct advice on the most optimal sailing route possibly deviating from the shortest route to go faster with the wind.
“The time is ripe: sustainability is high on the agenda in the industry. Shipping companies are striving for fuel economy: wind propulsion is a proven and fuel-independent solution. The payback time for current ships is around five years. With the VentoFoils, ships can reduce fuel consumption by up to 30% at voyage level,” said managing director Frank Nieuwenhuis.
Wind-assisted ship propulsion installations are on track to double this year over last year’s figure of just over 20, according to Gavin Allwright, secretary-general of the International Windship Association (IWSA) with a wide range of wind tech being sought by shipowners, including kites, hard sails and foils.
With the growth, investors are piling in. Splash reported earlier this month, for instance, on the news that agricultural giant Louis Dreyfus Company, LNG containment system leader GTT and the European Commission are among the parties to have invested in bound4blue, a Spanish suction sail company.
Wind-assisted propulsion was identified as one of the top tech developments in Splash’s annual tech forecast published at the start of the year with major charterers coming onboard to support the move.
“The message that we have delivered to national governments, the EU, the IMO and at the UN headquarters in New York has been that wind delivers on the most ambitious targets, it is the only propulsive energy source that will effectively pay for itself and a firm, robust and predictable framework for decarbonisation is what is needed for the industry to invest, scale quickly and weather the decarbonisation storm,” Allwright wrote in IWSA’s latest newsletter.