Wind propulsion is coming back in a new form: kites, not sails. Next year, SkySails, a German firm based in Hamburg, will begin outfitting cargo ships with massive kites designed to tug vessels and reduce their diesel consumption. The firm estimates that these kites will reduce fuel consumption by about one-third—a big saving, given that fuel accounts for about 60% of shipping costs.That is pretty cool. Kite surfing to the extreme.
The firm says it can outfit a ship with a kite system for between €400,000 and €2.5m, depending on the vessel's size. Stephan Wrage, the boss of SkySails, says fuel savings will recoup these costs in just four or five years, assuming oil prices of $50 a barrel.
SkySails' kites are made of a type of nylon similar to that used in the sails of modern windjammers, but they fly between 100 and 300 metres above sea level, where winds are less turbulent and, on average, more than 50% stronger than the winds that sails capture. An autopilot computer adjusts the height and angle of the kite, the surface area of which can range from 760 to 5,000 square metres. When the wind blows too strongly, one end of the rectangular kite is released so that the kite flaps like a flag. A powerful winch retrieves the kite when necessary.
Via The Economist