Over the years, clean energy sources have become extremely popular as countries and governments around the world try to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon emissions. One of these clean energy sources is solar power which converts sunlight directly into electricity. Solar power has been used as a major energy source for many applications such as providing electricity for residential homes and industrial equipment. Recently, solar power has been applied to many new projects. One of which is shipping and if successful, solar powered shipping can have large impacts on the environment as well as international trade.
New technology has been produced by an Australian company that allows hybrid ships to be powered by solar energy with the use of solar panels attached to the boat and its sails. Electricity created by the solar panels is stored in batteries and is used to power the engine at lower speeds. Once out in the ocean and a faster speed is required, the diesel engine kicks in. These hybrid ships also have retractable sails covered with solar panels allowing the ship to be powered by both wind and solar power, further reducing reliance on fossil fuel. Currently, these ships are being used as ferries in Shanghai and Sydney. Both ferry businesses have reduced fuel costs by about 17 percent by implementing these new hybrid energy ships.
While these solar powered ships are currently being used only for the transportation of people, there have been trials using these ships for larger shipping projects. An Australian mining company is even considering installing solar sails on its bulk carriers which are responsible for major international shipments of iron ore and other raw materials. By harnessing the wind and solar energy, it is estimated that ship could reduce the annual fuel bill by 20 to 40 percent or around 3 million Australian dollars.
This technology has large implications for the global shipping industry if companies are willing to adopt the new solar sail technology. It also has the potential to clean up the shipping industry worldwide in regards to the environment. The shipping industry is said to emit more greenhouse gases than commercial aviation. Large freight ships burn a heavily polluting oil known as bunker fuel which is a cheap but dirty fuel. Solar powered shipping can greatly reduce the dependency on these types of fuel while also saving money. If this new technology is adopted more widely, the global shipping industry may be changed dramatically. How do you think solar powered shipping will change the industry and how will it impact international trade? Feel free to comment below and let us know what you think!