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Norsepower has been given the green light to install their groundbreaking Rotor Sails on a bulk carrier in 2021. This is the company’s first order for a bulk carrier and its sixth order for Rotor Sails since 2012.

Bringing sailing back to shipping with a twist

Norsepower Rotor Sails, a Finnish cleantech company, were founded in 2012 and provides wind propulsion systems to reduce the environmental impact of ships. Its “Rotor Sails” are modernized versions of the Flettner rotor — a spinning cylinder that uses the Magnus Effect to harness the power of the wind to provide thrust to a vessel.

Unlike sails of old, this technology is not reliant on the direction of wind current and can even provide thrust for the ship even if it comes from the side or front. What is more, Norsepower’s Rotor Sails are fully automated and take information from wind sensors, and other shop data, to calculate when the can make a difference and improve a ship’s fuel consumption.

Norsepower Rotor Sails mounted on the tanker Maersk Pelican. Source: Norsepower

When conditions are just right, they will automatically turn on and start to help push the ship along. If not right, they automatically turn off so as to not waste energy turning themselves. 

Norsepower has been able to demonstrate significant fuel savings with their technology; between 5- and 20% (depending on the conditions). Some other studies have shown savings of up to 25%

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The current announcement is a very welcome one for the company, but the company who placed the order has chosen, as yet, to remain anonymous. More information should be available in 2021 when installation time approaches. 

“We are thrilled to be installing five tilting Rotor Sails on board not only the first Norsepower newbuild order but also the first bulk carrier. Installing the Rotor Sails on the first bulk carrier demonstrates that our technology is adaptable for both retrofits and newbuild vessels, and across varied operational profiles and vessel types,” Tuomas Riski, Norsepower CEO, said.

“There is incredible value in using wind propulsion, particularly as it is a solution available now with proven results. We look forward to seeing the Rotor Sails in action next year,” he added.

Rotor sails save money and the environment

Maritime shipping is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide on the planet. For this reason, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set targets to reduce emissions to 50% of those in 2008 by 2050, with smaller targets by 2030.

norsepower rotor sails ferry
Norsepower’s Rotor Sails have also been installed on cruise ferries like the Viking Line Viking Grace. Source: Norsepower

“International shipping transports more than 80 percent of global trade to peoples and communities all over the world. Shipping is the most efficient and cost-effective method of international transportation for most goods; it provides a dependable, low-cost means of transporting goods globally, facilitating commerce and helping to create prosperity among nations and peoples.” claim the IMO.

To date, somewhere in the order of 2-3% of global emissions come from the industry, and it is growing. It still remains one of the most efficient, and cost-effective ways of transporting bulk goods all around the globe —  a fact unlikely to change in the near future. 

But this comes at a cost to the planet. Carbon dioxide emissions aside, marine transport releases other pollutants too. For example,  ships produce between 18-30% of all nitrogen oxides and 9% of sulfur oxides, both major contributors to acid rain.

Technology like Norespower’s Rotor Sails will prove to be invaluable in reducing those emissions when used in tandem with better fuels with low sulfur content. 

Whether widescale adoption of Norsepower’s Rotor Sails will occur is yet to be seen, but many commercial shipping companies will likely be watching the developments with much interest. 

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