Solar Panel Sails Move To Design Phase

An innovative concept of using solar panels as both sails and photovoltaic energy producers on ships is moving forward to the “detailed design” phase, according to developer Eco Marine Power. The Fukuoka, Japan-based company is promoting its concept as a way for shipping lines to green up their operations.

As envisioned, Eco Marine’s Aquarius System works by putting an array of rigid solar panels on the deck of a ship. Using an advanced control and navigation system, the panels can be positioned to maximize collection of sunlight, but also can be maneuvered to catch the wind, thus serving as sails. The panels can be used in port for a recharge, and the company is designing them so they can be stowed during extreme weather.

solar sails, Eco Marine Power

image via Eco Marine Power

In their first iteration, the solar sails are being designed as retrofits to existing ships. The company is also limiting the early development of the Aquarius System to large carriers and oil tankers, but says the foundation of the technology could someday be used for smaller ships. The design was a finalist in the Green Shipping Initiative of the Year category at the Sustainable Shipping Awards in London in July.

solar sails, Eco Marine Power

image via Eco Marine Power

As we reported earlier this year, Eco Marine Power is expecting the first testing of the prototype to start in early 2012, and is seeking shipping companies and shipyards around the world to partner with on testing the Aquarius System.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Donald Deering

    Of all the proposed new green technology, this one makes the most sense to me…nnWith the cost of fuel oil being what it is and shipping rates, both in tanker and dry bulk shipping being at their lowest in many years, a solution like this makes excellent economical sense as well as the positive environmental aspects…

  • CAPnemo

    what about the individual. what about a private ownership of a sailboat whose sails have laced solar panels. is this not possible?