Irony Alert: A Solar and Wind Powered Oil Tanker

These days, it is good to be green, although the environmental credentials of many industries are beyond appalling, no matter how they try to spin their “green” efforts. There are some industries that will never be green, Big Oil among them. So the idea of a solar and wind powered oil tanker is ridiculous to the point of absurdity.Eco-Friendly Oil Spills

There are already numerous test pilots running on large freighter ships testing the viability of solar and/or wind power. So far these tests have shown that, while these green technologies can offset some electrical use, they have little impact compared to the carbon-spewing heavy oil-burning engines that power these massive ships. A better technique would be to apply basic aerodynamics to ships, such as Nissan’s round-nosed freighter delivering LEAF EV’s to customers in Europe.

Richard Sauter’s oil tanker concept combines old school sail technology with modern solar panels and a hybrid solar/LNG engine to deliver a 75% emissions reduction. The Post Panamax ship could hold up to 2 million barrels of crude oil, and is designed for the newer large locks of the Panama Canal. Designed to be “green” from the ground up, a Mitsubishi-designed hull reduces drag, a Wartsila’s Liquified Natural Gas engine combines with solar panels to power the ship, and DynaWing sails help (along with the engine) to provide 20 megawatts of electricity to run the ship. The ship would only cost a projected 15% more than a standard freighter, and would pay off that diifference in just 4 years. Over its expected lifetime, this concept boat would save a projected $1.5 billion.

Better Solution? Cleaner Fuel

The problem is, it only exists on paper right now. Furthermore, why use an oil tanker as the concept vessel? Sure, it could be applied, but for people like me, it automatically detracts from its green impact because it is transporting oil. Why not a cargo freighter, or something else more generalized? Why did it have to be an oil tanker, which as we all know are susceptible to accidents and oil spills.

The real solution here though is for current freighters to run cleaner fuel. The heavy oil used by most big ships is as cheap as it is dirty, and coastal pollution is on the rise as shipping traffic increases. These boats don’t need row upon row of sails or solar panels to clean up their emissions; they just need to dig a little deeper into their pockets and use any number of the up-and-coming cleaner fuels. Unfortunately, many shipping companies would rather risk more dangerous routes than use cleaner fuel to keep this profit margins nice and healthy. It doesn’t matter how dirty these ships are, keeping costs low is the only priority when it comes to trans-ocean transport.

What say you? Am I overreacting, or is this design just too far out, even if it is based in reality?

Source: VentureBeat | Images: Sauter Carbon Offset Design


Christopher DeMorro

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.