Wind Assisted Transportation

Scudding across the San Francisco Bay of late has been a trimaran with a novel, wing-like sail, which ferry boat operators have expressed interest in fitting onto passenger carrying boats.  It’s not ready for prime time yet but serious money is being put up and serious operators watching the results.

Richard Jenkins, a longtime sail engineer, designed the sail that’s being tested for ferry service. He previously built a land sail to set the world speed record for wind-powered vehicles, hitting 126 mph in the Nevada desert in 2009, and more recently built an ocean-crossing drone with funding from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.

“The same principles work really well for wind-assisted ferries,” Jenkins said.

The test sail that Jenkins created, which looks more like an upright airplane wing than a cloth sail, is powered by a built-in, solar-powered computer that rotates the glistening monolith to capture an optimal amount of wind and pass that power to the boat.

A unique trim tab attached to the top of the sail controls the angle at which the sail harnesses the wind.

There’s no rigging or tacking required, and all the pilot must do is turn on the sail, via a remote switch, and then watch the speed increase without revving the engine.

Wind Assist

…At a cost of about $250,000 to build, the group says the sail will quickly pay for itself through cutting fuel costs by 20 to 40 percent. A ferry can go through $1.2 million worth of fuel annually.

The prospect of curbing emissions of greenhouse gases and diesel particulate by up to 40 percent is what drew the attention of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, which helped the group secure its grant from a 2007 pot of state money for promoting clean air.

SF Gate

And that’s not all.  Promised for 2013 but not sailing yet is a four masted [or more] container ship which would radically drop the use of fossil fuel on long-haul ocean transport.


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