Are Solar Sails the Future of Sea Travel?

Eco Marine Power, a Japanese green energy company  is in the midst of developing the Aquarius Solar and Wind Marine Power System for ships and sea vessels.

This game-changing technology utilizes solar-powered sails which combine the use of wind, solar, and traditional fuels to keep the vessels moving.

While wind power has been harnessed by man to move ships for centuries, fossil fuels and nuclear power have become more popular in recent decades as they are generally more reliable and flexible than depending solely on wind currents.

This technology does not preclude the use of fossil fuels, but simply reduces dependence on them effectively lowering greenhouse gas emissions and cutting fuel costs.

The rigid solar panels are controlled by a main computer system which positions them for the optimal use of both wind and solar.

The system has various safety components, allowing for the storage of the panels during rough weather conditions.

The rigid solar panels were designed initially for larger ships like ocean liners, but the company boasts the flexibility of the design pointing out that the panels could be installed on a variety of ships and vessels, using the same main system components. Passenger ferries, luxury tourist boats, and coastal freighters could all, in theory, benefit from the system. Eco Marine Power is trying to draw the attention of governments who could use the technology on naval vessels.

Solar Sailor, another company leading the way in hybrid power technology for ships currently has products available for private yachts, tourist cruisers, and ferries, in addition to the larger vessels targeted by Eco Marine Power.

Solar Sailor hit their stride back in 2008 when they signed an agreement with China's largest shipping line, COSCO, to develop technology for tanker and bulk ship carriers.

The company has been on an award collecting spree since their founding in 1999, and boast such accolades as the Winner of Conde Nast Traveler's Innovation and Design Awards (2010) and Italian Design Well-Tech Award (2009).

Solar panels are not a rare sight on personal yachts, but as technology continues to develop, they may begin to play a more significant role in the lives of sea-faring travelers.

While unrest and major political changes in the Middle East and North Africa continue to push fuel prices up, alternative sources of energy begin to warrant a second look from many. While it is frustrating that unpredictable oil prices tend to spark this consideration only once or twice a year, and as prices fall momentarily talk of a better path predictably peters out, but the success of reducing fossil fuel use on both a large scale (ocean liners) and in a perceptible manner (on tourist ferries and private yachts) will undoubtedly be instrumental in creating lasting change.

Photo Credit: afronie