Solar Panel Sails to Propel Future Freighters?


When it comes to emissions and pollution, a lot of focus is on cars. However, shipping is a huge contributor to global emissions output, and some innovative solutions have surfaced as a means for cleaning up. Eco Marine Power is developing a solar panel that doubles as a ship sail. Two birds, one stone?

The panels would be placed on the deck of a ship and controlled by an advanced computer system that could turn and direct them towards the sun, the wind, or both, depending on circumstances. Such a system could not directly power a ship per se, but could provide auxiliary power that would lessen the demand on the heavy oil-burning engines. Toyota has already experimented with solar panels on its container ships, with limited success. Adding the ability to catch the sun and wind energy could make it more worthwhile.

For now, the system is being designed as a retrofit for existing ships, and will have to be easily stowed during bad weather. In the future though, more advance systems could supply a large portion of the power freighters need. A solar-powered ship has already proven that it can traverse the world’s oceans relying only on the sun. Not quite the same solar sails that NASA is working on, but potentially far more beneficial. When combined with other ideas like the SkySail and more aerodynamic shapes, and large container ships may soon be entering a cleaner, greener era.

Source: Eco Marine Power via Treehugger

Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Sometimes the simple ideas are the coolest. I hope it works.

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  • Brad

    I realise this is old post but I came across it reaching google for solar panels solutions for sailing yachts. I have to say part of me thinks this is really cool the other part thinks its really stupid. When you consider the energy required to move a ton of freight across the world the ocean going part is actually really efficient. These ships may use a great deal of fossil fuels but they also move an enormous amount of goods so on a per ton basis it really isn’t that much. I also think the solar powered boat is cool technology but also kind of stupid overall. We all ready have a well thought out technology for ocean transport that requires no fossil fuels. Its large sailing vessels not some ugly kludge added to a vessel designed for fossil fuels.
    Sailing vessels for freight was still common at the turn of the last century but just can’t compete with fossil fuels, I don’t see this changing any time soon.