Full Sail Ahead – A New Take on Offshore Wind Power

Sky Sails


If you’re glad you kept your collection of 1980’s ski suits only to find that neon is the new black then you’ll be blown away by SkySails, a German based company producing wind powered propulsion for boats over 100 feet in length.  Operating on principals similar to kite boarding, this system utilizes a high altitude “tow kite” to generate power for the vessel.

Boasting up to a 35% reduction in fuel consumption in ideal conditions, these power generation systems launched (literally) in 2008 during the height of fuel costs providing cargo ships some reprieve in operating costs downwind.  While fuel pricing has reduced in the past several years, one thing remains constant: green initiatives that save greenbacks are here to stay.

Technological advances such as the Dyneema line, that tethers the kite to the vessel, allows the nearly 1800 square foot kite (which produces the thrust of an Airbus A318 turbine engine) to carry the cargo across open ocean.  Sounds like science fiction, but thanks to advanced fiber technologies and physics this sustainable energy can be utilized to reduce carbon emissions for global transport.

For sailors the effect Wind Shear is often discussed as you deal with varying wind over the height of th
e sail.  Taller masts can produce more power by catching air that may be passing over boats with less sail area above the deck.   SkySails takes this atmospheric effect to the extreme by launching their football field sized kites (manufactured by North Sails NZ) thousands of feet in the air to catch oceanic breeze that is more substantial and more consistent.  Utilizing their integrated mast system to launch and retrieve this mammoth kite has made SkySails a viable solution for merchant vessels looking to the future of shipping.

This innovation has earned SkySails a Sustainable Shipping Award and I am sure has caused more than one Captain to scratch their head and wonder what that UFO is flying ahead of that cargo vessel.  Fuel savings means less greenhouse gas, less oceanic pollution, lower cost of transport (that means lower cost of goods) providing benefits that you can see.  Now to try and convince your bowman to douse one of these:

Sky Sail Crane


– Jason Tomchik

Images ©SkySails 2016

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