As solar planes take to the skies, wind-powered ships are taking to the seas.
The Avontuur, which means “adventure” in Dutch, is a 144-foot schooner that combines old-school naval technology (i.e. tall masts and sails) with energy from solar and wind sources to deliver organic goods to neighboring regions. Captain Cornelius Bockermann explains that the ship is part of an ongoing goal to cut carbon emissions from Europe’s atmosphere.
“Most people want this to be shipped to their doorsteps in a sustainable way, and not the traditional way,” he says. “The only way to combine this organic produce and the consumer demand is with a cleaner way of transport… We carry a lot more than cargo. We carry a message. We want to make people think about the consequences of consumption.”
Since last December’s revolutionary Paris Talks, several countries in and around Europe have set objectives to cut carbon emissions. Norway is vowing to reduce greenhouse gases to a clean “zero” by the year 2030, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan wants to see his city operating fully on green energy by the century’s halfway point.
The idea of a ship running on wind is not entirely new. Plans for wind-based fleets came to fruition nearly two years ago with the reveal of the Vindskip, a Norwegian cargo ship designed to operate on both airstreams and natural gas. Entrepreneur and speed sailor Terje Lade holds the patent, and he explains that the ship’s hull would serve as an artificial sail and allow “free-blowing wind” to maneuver the vehicle, making it extremely energy efficient.
“At angles close to headwind, the wind generates a force in the ship’s direction that enables the ship to be pulled forward,” he states. “Since the hull is shaped like a symmetrical air foil, the oblique wind on the opposite side – leeward – has to travel a longer distance. This causes a vacuum at the windward side that pulls the ship forward.”
Regulating greenhouse emissions in avionics and the shipping industry has proven difficult. Vehicles consistently travel to separate countries, making them near impossible to govern by single nations.
Wind energy has also yielded mixed results. As some of the world’s largest suppliers of renewable energy, Australia’s windfarms were the recent victims of a smear campaign that saw them blamed for rising energy prices and electricity consumption. Several politicians unexpectedly sided with traditional coal companies, who worked hard to keep the campaign flowing.
Europe, however, seems quite set in its emissions goals. Through innovative means like the Avontuur, a continent with little to no carbon footprints is on the verge of becoming a solid reality.
“We won’t change the world, and we won’t change the shipping industry,” Bockermann states. “But we want to set an example, and we want to use this ship as an ambassador and show what’s going on.”
The Avontuur has also paved the way for similar designs, such as the Ecoliner of Dykstra Naval Architects in the Netherlands. The ship would monitor weather patterns and use computer simulation to locate the best trade winds for its sails, decreasing its total fuel usage. The ship’s designers have now moved onto phase two: trying to find investors.