Fukuoka, Japan-based Eco Marine Power is developing a solar and wind power system for ships and ocean-going vessels.
The Aquarius system will use panels fitted with solar modules to collect wind and solar energy onboard ships as a means to lower their fuel consumption, lessen their emissions and reduce their carbon footprint.
The decision to proceed with the development of the Aquarius system was made after a feasibility study was conducted in 2010 that found that wind and solar power could be harnessed by ships in a cost-effective manner.
The Aquarius system will use an on board computer system to control how an array of panels are deployed, enabling them to be positioned for the best use of the wind or to act as solar energy collectors depending on the prevailing weather conditions.
The panels will effectively allow large vessels, such as oil tankers and bulk carriers, to become part solar ships and part sailing ships. It will also be possible to use the panels when the ship is at anchor or alongside in port.
In addition, the system is being designed with a range of safety features that will, for example, automatically stow the panels during periods of adverse weather conditions.
Although the Aquarius system is being initially designed for large ships, Eco Marine Power believes that the technology being developed will also be suitable for smaller vessels, such as coastal freighters, passenger ferries and tourist boats.
The company is currently working together with a number of development partners in several countries to complete the detailed design, and a prototype of the system is scheduled to be ready for preliminary testing in early 2012.