I remember back in the 1980’s, taking a CAD class, my first drawing was a ship being pulled by a parafoil kite. I wondered why nobody else seemed to see the simple solution I saw. Today I am not so convinced. Is this really a new era for shipping? Seems like all we ever see, after years of ship-pulling kites, is vague statements of “we AIM to REDUCE emissions” by a certain percent, chosen to be just significant enough to bother mentioning. Will such savings be attained in reality? Will the kites catch on, really? Or is it possible that we’ll have them around for a while due to legislation passed that favors kites as a visible symbolic statement of “We know we are burning a lot of fuel, but at least we’re trying to do something about it”, until at some point, it becomes a silly tip-of-the-hat, amounting to what is often called “virtue-signalling”, which means coming up with excuses for burning a lot of fuel while condemning the use of fuel for “the little people”, like when all the bigwigs fly their private jets to meetings lamenting people driving to work or using plastic soda straws?
So here we have another prediction of the future. But it has been noted that predicting things is fraught with error, especially when it concerns the future. Why is it always “the first flight” or “first journey”, or first whatever, when this concept has now been around for at least a decade? How much fuel does it really save? Hard for me to say sitting here on dry land, but I am now far less convinced than I was 40 years ago.
On further thinking about kites pulling ships, why is it always just an “assist” rather than “the kite pulling the ship”? I mean, if a kite can exert a pulling force on the ship sufficient to save a certain percentage of fuel, why is the kite not simply made large enough to exert ALL of the force necessary to pull the ship? They never seem to explain that one. If one kite can save 20% of the fuel , then why not use a stack of five (5) kites and save ALL of the fuel? Could it be that the only “safe” position for these ship-pulling-kite companies is a slight decrease in fuel use, because if the effect is slight enough, they can just exaggerate the effect and get some sort of carbon credits or something when maybe the kite is doing next-to-nothing except this “virtue-signalling” we hear about so often? I think the whole thing is getting pretty fishy, if you’ll excuse the very weak pun. We still don’t see any yachts being pulled by kites except that same old symbolic catamaran covered with solar panels, which likely has a nice diesel backup for when nobody’s watching.
Not sure why kites can pull surfers along so well, and not boats, but at this point, it’s getting to be an old idea, with some pretty well-funded companies executing some impressive-sized demo projects, but to me, as with kite-reeling, there must be some reason why it never gets past the “prototype” or “demo” stage. It almost seems that with the number and power capacity of units produced and deployed so far, and the subsequent lack of follow-through, the technologies are in the process of disproving themselves(?)
Similar to hydrogen cars, which any third-grader could do the math on and see what a waste of energy hydrogen-as-fuel is. I just read that Shell has removed hydrogen fueling systems for cars in the UK, due to lack of use, and lack of interest. It is weird how otherwise sensible people and companies fall for the hydrogen story - 1/5 as efficient at 10x the cost - what’s the point?
“Seawing aims to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by an average of 20%.”
As someone whose first CAD drawing way back in the 1980’s was a kite pulling a boat, I yet remain skeptical.
The telltale clue: 20%. It’s as though the promoters can;t get past the “pretend” stage of pulling a boat by a kite. It’s always the same, tired story: 20%, - or maybe 15%, or “trying for” 20%. Really? No ship just being “pulled by a kite” but only ever “assisted”. In other words, without an actual engine, forget it. Withouyt the engine, you can’t fake it, so you NEED the engine to do most of the work, and the kite can hopefully “help a little”.
OK kids - time for your nap - when you wake up we’ll have milk and cookies, then we’ll have a lesson on why we changed the term “global warming” to “climate change”… (hint: so they can blame the snowstorms that were supposed to be extinct on it - whatever “it” now is…
Why is anyone in Wind Tech surprised power kites are relentlessly industrializing?
50yrs of R&D is paying off for those who have persisted-
KiteShip USA started it all in the 1970s. This is a SkySails-licensed Airbus spin-off-
This could easily turn out to be “greenwashing” where the most intensive users of fossil fuels try to make “statements” indicating their “virtue” insofar as they are “transitioning away from fossil fuels”, like when Chevron says they are “decarbonizing” - Oh yes, we totally hate fossil fuels, even though they are our main product!"
Meanwhile, with the discovery of methane clathrates at the bottoms of our oceans, it looks like hydrocarbon fuels might be 100% sustainable, as long as all the carbon stays on planet Earth!