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I came across an interesting quote today while researching something non sailing.:

Technologist and inverter George Dyson was asked what innovation did Dyson most hope to see during his time in the phase-space of the living? He had obviously thought about this before, and answered immediately: “The return of sailing ships as a commercially viable transport system.” Even in the days of cloth sails and hemp rope, he said, clipper ships could convert 60 percent of the raw energy of the wind into useful work. With modern materials and design, they could capture more energy than they used en route. “When a fleet of ships got to port, they could not only deliver cargo but even put energy into the grid.” This is how innovators think.
 

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Bristol 45.5 - AiniA
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I hope that they can figure it all out. When I go on a long passage it is astonishing to think about how much energy has gone into creating all those waves, along with winds and currents you can't see.
 

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Well, I kind of hate to play the curmudgeon, but I have to say that I'm not seein' it.

For ships to ever put energy back into the grid, they'd have to store it while they are sailing. For now, at least, that would mean a huge bank of batteries, much larger than needed to operate the ship. And that takes room. And a cargo ship needs to use its room to carry cargo. This is a business, after all.

So the only way this would work is if they were paid for the electricity they put into the grid at the end of their voyage, and if that payment was more than they could have made by carrying more cargo instead of a big bank of batteries. I'm just not seeing the numbers adding up.

Maybe someday, when electrical generation methods are WAAAY more efficient than they are now, and batteries are WAAAAY smaller than they are now... But then, if those changes happen, then so much will have changed that having ships add electricity to the grid could be completely pointless. It will be a whole different equation, so who knows what will make sense at that point?

Don't get me wrong. I would love to see the return of sailing cargo ships. But at this point, I think Dyson's comments are just wild-eyed speculation from a dreamer rather than any sort of innovation from someone who has actually given this any serious thought.
 

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Well, I kind of hate to play the curmudgeon, but I have to say that I'm not seein' it.

........

Skeptic!! Spoilsport! ;) :p ;)

You're probably right, but who knows? Development of even better 'super capacitors' could change the energy storage game...
 

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I want to skipper a 99-gross ton coastal lumber schooner (which would fit within my seldom-used license).

Wait..has that been done already?

I think if the price of fuel went way way up, we could see some local sail routes for low-value cargos that don't shift when heeled, and the delivery time is flexible (as is the wind). But would it pay? again, I think not, unless fuel becomes way too expensive and all the large ships are slow-steaming at 6 knots.

And I hate to say it, but beautiful hull forms that sail nicely don't hold that much cargo compared to block-coefficient tankers and bulk carriers.
 

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Seems to me that if fuel costs (whether actual cost or carbon costs) goes up there could be a real market for slow travel cargo ships. Kind of like FedEx, pay more to get it faster, or save money and let the wind bring it. There seem to be lots of goods that could be moved by wind power as long as schedules allowed for it. Could be some wind generators/solar/sail power combination that could keep an average of say 6 or 7 knots. How fast do we really need to get our Tickle Me Elmo dolls to the US? Lots of goods that have long self life, and sales life that could go "slow boat."

I think more than technology it will take a big economic challenge to make it happen. It seems to be that it takes a real economic need to push the technology.
 

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SkySails GmbH has introduced a 'sail' they call a towing kite. This is in addition to their engines and has nothing to do with ships generating power they can share in port; but still a little interesting.

Back in 2006 or so Google filed a patent for putting data centers on ships. The up and down motion would force sea water into pipes that can help cool server racks and generate power. I assume in this case the ship is stationary and isn't intended to sail around.
 

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Sailing cargo ships are probably not in the future; see nolatom's post #6. I'm guessing hydrogen, derived by solar-powered water fission, then re-combined in fuel cells, will be the fuel of the future.

People who are interested in electricity generation should understand a few things about generation efficiency:

1) Thermal conversion, like coal-burning steam boilers with steam turbines is constricted by a fairly low theoretical efficiency. And by 'theoretical' I don't mean 'speculative,' I mean maximum possible, if all other losses are eliminated. Thermal conversion, even with it's low theoretical efficiency, is OK if there is lots of cheap fuel and society is willing to accept the by-products of combustion or other heat source (like nuclear waste).

2) If you have a clean and free energy source, like wind or solar radiation, the conversion efficiency doesn't matter so much from the viewpoint of fuel consumption. It does matter, however, in terms of the size of the generation plant required to convert wind or light into a significant amount of electricity. This brings us to:

3) Renewable energy sources are so diffuse that even if the efficiency of conversion was 100%, we would still need to commit large portions of the terrestial surface to collection equipment. I'm not an expert on cargo ships, but I am an expert on buildings. We could cover our non-residential buildings with 100% efficient photovoltaic arrays, but still need auxillary power. There is simply not enough incident light on buildings' surfaces to power the loads that we are accustomed to. I'm guessing the same goes for cargo ships. They will need all the wind they can catch just to move. Any other energy collection will reduce their speed. This leads to the conclusion:

4) We simply must reduce our power demand or continue to burn fossil fuels until we no longer can, then we will reduce demand by force. Generating and storage efficiency improvements will not save us; continued load side reduction, forced by law if necessary (like illegalizing incandescent light bulbs), is imperative. Anybody who says that reduction in energy consumption will harm the economy is either lying or has believed lies they heard. For the last twenty years, at least, the energy conservation industry has been a robust sector of the free market economy. I know because I'm a person who is making a good living at it. The government subsidies that are supporting otherwise non-supportable activities are ..... well, that's a topic for another discussion.
 

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I suspect that the need to move the masts or other sail or kite carrying structures might negate any advantage when the ship gets to port and the cargo has to be removed.
So, I see sails as possibly being amenable to liquid cargo that can be pumped with piping that will not interfere with masts, etc. It cannot be a cargo whose value fluctuates daily as do most petroleum products where time to market can be an issue.
Basically, you've got a specialized solution looking for a unique problem.
 

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Sea Sprite 23 #110 (20)
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Maybe not the huge bulk freighters.. but we are already starting to see smaller shippers use ships. Like these vineyards in France.

Eco-friendly French to ship their wine under sail | Environment | The Observer

As it is, there is -nothing- more efficient for moving mass amounts of cargo than the huge bulk freighters we have now. The gross tonnage they can move per gallon of fuel is just incredible.
 

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I hope it comes to pass, but still question whether the unforgiving cost per ton per mile equation will allow it to flourish as a mainstream cargo transport regime.

But might it fit in as a "niche" adjunct to the big-ships (or truck, or rail) schemes? Maybe? In some "short-sea" trading, the ocean routes are short (North/Baltic seas, Med, Mass/Canada maritimes) and smaller cargo parcels might fit into sailing craft? Would retired Boomers go along as adventure-passengers and pay for the privilege, say, Boston to P-Town??

A little voice tells me the entreprenurial market would have already found this solution if it really existed, though. Or has it? Do the ferries carry freight? Passenger/freighters used to be a major thing. Again I think the cost and availability of non-wind fuel (and society's adaptation and attitudes as a result of a shortage) will be the deciding factor in changing the picture.

I can feel my right brain wanting to convince my left brain on this, and failing. I'd love to skipper a small sailing cargo ship. And the weather would always be nice, the wind fair, my crew agreeable and noble, the stevodores genteel and pleasant, the cargo receivers understanding, the Coast Guard inspectors cooperative and new-age, and (ahem) the pay steady..... ;-)
 

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I've seen Captain Philips, seems they get by on a crew of two dozen or so. How many crew members would be needed to man a sail/motor hybrid? Again you are too close to the tipping point to make this work. Would the tax payers have to subsidise this? If the free market can make it work, more power to them. Dave G
 

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Long after the rules of free market and available oil have past ,the new petro chemical industry will be able to grow with supplies harvested from Pacific Gyr plastic under sail. Like the last generation of Portuguese schooners and single man dorys .New market needs will change a lot of things.
 

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Back in 2006 or so Google filed a patent for putting data centers on ships. The up and down motion would force sea water into pipes that can help cool server racks and generate power. I assume in this case the ship is stationary and isn't intended to sail around.
this could help them beat data liability as they could be out of all countries jurisdictions. Kind of like sealand the old oil platform that was a data center to avoid prosecution for various nefarious data. Last I heard it was for sale, not sure if they are in existence anymore.
 
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