Shipping: back to the future with tiltable rotor sails?

Posted: July 3, 2020 by oldbrew in Emissions, innovation, Travel, wind

This is from a press release via Green Car Congress. The maker ‘estimates that its technology would be able to achieve a carbon emissions reduction of 25% for this vessel’.
– – –
Norsepower Oy Ltd., the leading global provider of auxiliary wind propulsion systems, and SEA-CARGO, leading logistics provider in the North Sea market, announced an agreement to install two of Norsepower’s largest Rotor Sails (earlier post) on board the SC Connector, a sidedoor Ro-Ro.

The agreement aso marks the installation of the world’s first tiltable Rotor Sail, showcasing the innovative design adaptations that can be made for individual vessel requirements.

The SC Connector, a 12,251 gross tonne (GT) Ro-Ro cargo vessel operates in the North Sea, which allows for some of the most favorable wind conditions for Rotor Sails.

The routes involve navigating under multiple bridges and powerlines which require the Rotor Sails to have a tilting function.

Working in tandem, Norsepower and SEA-CARGO combined their expertise to develop the 35m high and 5m wide Rotor Sails to enable them to tilt to almost horizontal when required.

The Norsepower Rotor Sail Solution—which can be installed on new vessels or retrofitted on existing ships—is a modernized version of the Flettner rotor, a spinning cylinder that uses the Magnus effect to harness wind power to thrust a ship.

Continued here.
– – –
See GCC’s earlier post re. the Magnus effect.

  1. ivan says:

    I note they babble on about CO2 emissions reduction but nothing about the overall efficiency of the system.

    I assume they get some form of subsidy for being ‘green’ otherwise I don’t see any compelling argument for them to be so stupid.

  2. JB says:

    Hope they figured out how to drop those turrets in gale force winds/gusts

  3. oldbrew says:

    JB – the video/animation shows them tilting down to go under a bridge.

  4. Graeme No.3 says:

    Back to the 1920’s when this was first tried. At least one ‘ship’ crossed the Atlantic (& back).
    Cutting fuel consumption by 25% when fuel prices are low doesn’t seem likely to pay back the cost.
    And what’s wrong with using wood chips for fire the boilers? If Drax powerstation in Yorkshire can get lots of money for doing so (& only a 32-33% increase in CO2 missions) then surely wood propelled ships will last as long as the subsidies.

  5. cognog2 says:

    Old technology. Not viable in adverse subsidy winds. The maritime industry has gone through all this sort of thing many years ago.
    Helium kites for blue water trade wind applications might be a good way to waste other people’s money. Plenty of technical wrinkles to sort out, needing research funding.

  6. oldbrew says:

    Graeme – yes, by green logic (?) wood pellet delivery ships should be running on wood pellets.

  7. pochas94 says:

    Heck, with enough subsidies they’ll make out like Bandits. As long as they don’t forget their engines.

  8. Gamecock says:

    No financial incentive. Fuel cost savings will not make up for lost deck space.

    System might require more onboard labor, too.

  9. konrad says:

    Flettner rotors have been tried before on many vessels, but success has been limited. This current approach clearly seeks to address one of the limitations, by lowering the rotors when drag would outweigh any propulsion gain.

    But like all wind augmentation efforts for commercial shipping, this design still causes too much deck obstruction for too little fuel reduction. Cargo ships carrying intermodal containers are those vessels most in need of fuel savings yet are those for which this technology is most impractical. So it’s back to the drawing board, not back to the future, for this one.

    However there are two technologies that hold promise for cargo vessel fuel savings:
    1. Air lubricated hulls.
    2. Oscillating foil propulsion.

    Air lubricated hulls are a current commercial reality. Oscillating foil propulsion not so much.

    I have hands on experience with oscillating foil propulsion in human powered watercraft. It works. (I should be able to beat the record set by “Decavitator” in 2021). But in getting it to work with human power, I found out why those currently trying larger mechanically driven foils were failing to approach theoretical efficiencies. There is a solution for larger vessels …

    The advantage to the two technologies I mention is that they provide predictable energy savings that shipping companies can bank on. Wind can never provide that.

  10. Curious George says:

    I remember beautiful videos of California High Speed Train. They did not stress that it would be Merced to Bakersfield only.

  11. tom0mason says:

    A neat little practical video on the Flettner rotor by an enthusiast …

  12. hunterson7 says:

    Cute cartoon.

  13. oldbrew says:

    In the Flettner rotor video, the presenter uses a vacuum cleaner to blow on one side of the rotor. But on a ship the wind won’t blow on one side only.

  14. tom0mason says:

    Glad you can see what I can.
    The forward motion is dependant on the direction of the wind. Interesting sailing ahead for all on board these ships that rely on ” the most favorable wind conditions for Rotor Sails.”

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    Having lived on a sailing boat…. so did they add a keel balast to keep it upright, or is it providing so little thrust that heeling over doesn’t happen?

    That’s kind of your two choices. Lots of thrust means you need a wing under water too, or a lot of mass in the keel. Don’t have a sailing keel? Then you can only get low thrust without listing over and drifting to leeward (making leeway, sliding sideways).

    It’s either going to be a gimmick, or a PITA to sail. You want to use wind, make a purpose built motor sailer with motorized roller reefing sails.

  16. oldbrew says:

    All the technology and tilting etc. is bound to be expensive in relation to the alleged benefits, even assuming it’s reliable.

  17. oldbrew says:

    HISTORICAL NOTE: In the early 1920’s the force from a rotating cylinder was used to power a sailing ship. The idea, proposed by Anton Flettner of Germany, was to replace the mast and cloth sails with a large cylinder rotated by an engine below deck. The idea worked, but the propulsion force generated was less than the motor would have generated if it had been connected to a standard marine propeller! Here’s a picture of the ship provided by Brian Adkins, BAE, Georgia Tech, 1993.

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