While sailing ships are unlikely to make a comeback anytime soon for oceanic shipping, adding sails to fossil-powered cargo vessels is definitely "on the horizon." This not-new idea is now compatible with the needs of shipping companies, and the savings make both climatic and economic sense:
By using the SkySails-System, a ship’s fuel costs can be reduced by 10- 35% on annual average, depending on wind conditions. Under optimal wind conditions, fuel consumption can temporarily be reduced by up to 50%. Even on a small, 87 metre cargo ship, savings of up to 280,000 euros can be made annually.
These are figures a CEO can get behind, as they’d appear to ensure a rapid payback cycle, and are courtesy of Hamburg-based SkySails. There’s a U.S.-based company offering the same product, KiteShip. For a dose of inspiration, check out the photos of conventional ships flying sails at either of these manufacturers’ sites. Technical details on the SkySail system are here.
This is the kind of thinking that can get us to a better place.