Despite low oil prices, this company pushes through with a wind propulsion system to power its cargo vessels

Current restrictions and challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic will not stop the shipping industry in pushing for wind-assisted propulsion solutions to pave the way for decarbonization. Not even the low oil prices, for that matter, as companies continue to search for technology solutions that are market-ready and have the potential to deliver substantial savings today. Recently, Tharsis Sea-River Shipping forged a collaboration with Netherlands-based eConowind to install two wind-assist TwinFoil units on their 88-meter, 2,364-dwt diesel-electric general cargo vessel MV Tharsis.

“We always try to use as little fuel as possible on our weekly voyage from Duisburg to the East coast of the United Kingdom. Using currents and tides and optimizing our schedule, and adding wind-assisted propulsion will further reduce our fuel consumption. Especially interesting is to see how much the tipping point of starting a second generator will shift,” said Jan Albert Bosma, co-owner of Tharsis Sea-River Shipping.

The eConowind-units are integrated into a specially designed aluminum Flatrack from which the folding TwinFoils can be deployed. The TwinFoil is a further innovation for eConowind next to their previously created VentiFoils. The TwinFoil is a wing with a flap principle similar to those used by aircraft during landing and take-off. Setting the wings optimally relative to the wind will be done swiftly and reliably by a small third steering-wing.

The Netherlands-based NG shipyard will install the system and bring their experience of fabricating aluminum construction to stay under the 2500 kg total weight needed for the vessel’s operations. “We are very happy to bring our experience to the specific challenges in this project. We specialize in lightweight but durable construction at sea and focus on high-performance ships with sustainable propulsion. This project combines all of that. We can offer the system at reduced cost with the help of the SDS-program of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy,” explained Albert Keizer, CEO of NG-shipyard.

The WASP (Wind Assisted Ship Propulsion) project is funded by the Interreg North Sea Europe program, part of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). It brings together universities and wind-assist technology providers with ship owners to install, research, trial, and validate the operational performance of a selection of wind propulsion solutions. “We look forward to evaluating the wings and do research together in the WASP project, part of the EU Interreg North Sea region program,” Bosma added.

Frank Nieuwenhuis, CEO of eConowind, shared, “We are delighted to add Tharsis to our customer base and with both river and North Sea routing with varying winds we expect a lot from the TwinFoil. Of particular interest is the combination of this self-adjusting technology in combination with a modern diesel-electric drive, which in theory should give optimal results.”

The system setting will be the last of five installations under the WASP project, and it is scheduled for February 2021.                               

Developing a fast-charging marine battery

Meanwhile, the Energy-Transhipment Hub (E-T Hub) project is developing and testing a small, sustainable and innovative fast-charging method for inland vessels on the former Gelderland power station on the Waal in Nijmegen. This E-T Hub combines the charging of mobile energy containers to reduce peak loads on the electricity grid. It means that as many surpluses of solar and wind energy, which cannot be connected to the electricity network due to capacity problems of that network, are used for charging these mobile battery containers. These batteries are also applicable in the transport sector and at festivals and construction projects.

A model is being developed for upscaling the E-T Hub. Concepts are also in the works to link the charging infrastructure to other applications and transport segments, such as trucks, forklift trucks, and possibly public transport buses. Also, it is pre-sorted on the generation and refueling of hydrogen for ships and vehicles.

With all these developments, a contribution is made to the reduction of CO2 and nitrogen emissions. It, therefore, contributes to the Gelderland nitrogen approach. The ships on the Waal emit more nitrogen than an average provincial road. That is why the Province of Gelderland is pushing for more sustainable inland shipping and has asked the province to invest in it.

The group of Engie (Nijmegen), BCTN (Nijmegen), eL-Tec (Hattem), Tharsis Sea-River Shipping (Delfzijl), and the municipality of Nijmegen will collaborate with E-T Hub, with over 4.1 million euros invested in the project, including a personal contribution from these partners. Tharsis, meantime, will be responsible for the ship-side maritime development and logistics. (Story and photos by Tharsis Sea-River Shipping)