Study on the analysis of market potentials and market barriers for wind propulsion technologies for ships

This study, commissioned by DG Climate Action, focuses on the direct utilisation of wind for the propulsion of commercial ships in the form of wind-assisted shipping. The study has three main objectives. Many innovative wind propulsion technology concepts have been and are being developed for commercial shipping. However, none of the technologies has reached market maturity yet. The first aim of the study is therefore to identify both the barriers to the development and uptake of wind propulsion technologies and the possible actions that can contribute to overcome these barriers. The second aim is to estimate the market and emissions savings potential of the wind propulsion technologies, and the third aim is to determine the economic and social effects associated with this market potential.

The study identifies a multitude of barriers that currently prevent the further development and uptake of wind propulsion technologies for ships; three key barriers thereby stand out:

  1. (Trusted) information on the performance, operability, safety, durability, and economic implications of the wind propulsion technologies.
  2. Access to capital for the development of wind propulsion technologies, especially for building and testing of full scale demonstrators.
  3. Incentives to improve energy efficiency/reduce CO2 emissions of ships.

These key barriers are interrelated in different ways, with the most crucial interaction being a chicken-and-egg problem between the first and second key barrier. In order to breach this chicken-and-egg problem, we see the development of a standardized method to assess wind propulsion technologies combined with test cases to develop this assessment method as the most important starting point for overcoming the barriers.

The study also identifies different actions that can be taken once a standardized assessment method has been developed. These actions aim at improving the generation of more information on the wind propulsion technologies, at improving the access to and value of this information, and at improving the access to capital for the development and testing of full scale demonstrators.

In order to determine the savings potentials, models have been developed for the different wind propulsion technologies. The models have been used to determine the technologies’ power savings for six sample ships across AIS-recorded voyage profiles and for sample routes, differentiating two speed regimes respectively.

The results indicate that the considered technologies can have significant savings potentials. More in specific, for the sample ships and selected wind propulsion technology dimensions, savings are found to be comparable for Flettner rotors and wingsails (5-18% in high speed scenario), with relative savings on the larger ships exceeding those on the smaller ships, especially for bulk carriers.

For towing kites relative savings (1-9% in high speed scenario) are, compared to rotors and wingsails, higher for smaller vessels and lower for larger vessels; relative savings are lowest for wind turbines (1-2% in high speed scenario). An important finding is that absolute savings are larger at the higher voyage speed for the wingsail and the rotor for all ship types considered.

Should some wind propulsion technologies for ships reach marketability in 2020, the maximum market potential for bulk carriers, tankers and container vessels is estimated to add up to around 3,700-10,700 installed systems until 2030, including both retrofits and installations on newbuilds, depending on the bunker fuel price, the speed of the vessels, and the discount rate applied. The use of these wind propulsion systems would then lead to CO2 savings of around 3.5-7.5 Mt CO2 in 2030 and the wind propulsion sector would then be good for around 6,500-8,000 direct and around 8,500-10,000 indirect jobs.

The study has been jointly carried out by CE Delft, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Fraunhofer ISI, and Chalmers University of Technology.



Michael Traut (Tyndall Centre)
Jonathan Köhler (Fraunhofer ISI)
Wengang Mao (Chalmers University)

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