Sky Sails Promise Wind Energy for Fuel Reduction

Commercial freight ships are among the largest vehicles ever made and are responsible for moving much of the world's transported goods. Ever since we got off using sailing ships, we've been using diesel. One of 100 technologies selected for the Eco-Tech awards at the World Expo in Aichi, Japan, Sky Sails is a system that puts giant sail kites on freight ships to use high-altitude winds to help pull them across the ocean. A computer autopilot controls the sails, determines optimal shipping routes, and even packs and unpacks the sails (no heave…ho!). The sails themselves have up to 5,000 sq meters (45,000 sq ft) of surface area, and contain giant compressed air compartments that keep them rigid. Getting up high is the key to catching those strong winds. The makers of the Sky Sails claim they go up to 500 meters (1,640 ft) high where they can catch strong air currents even in areas typically considered doldrums...The cable to which the sail is attached moves around the hull of the ship on a track, a feature designed to eliminate heeling (tipping), that is the common behavior of sailing ships. The advantage of these contraptions, of course, is that ships can either go faster, or use less fuel (freighters use diesel). The company claims they can realize as much as 50% fuel savings. Sky Sails at this point are in their "virtual" stages, but the German company has recently acquired a more than 15 ton vessel for use as a prototype. Keep your eyes open next time you’re on a plane over the ocean. If you see one, don't be too shocked if it's got an ad on it. ::Sky Sails