Sydney-based solar ship builder, Solar Sailor, has signed an agreement to supply huge solar-power sails to be fitted to two Chinese cargo ships.

The aluminium sails, which are 30 metres tall and are covered with photovolatic panels, will harness the wind to cut fuel costs by between 20 and 40 per cent while generating solar electricity to meet five per cent of a ship’s energy needs.

China’s largest shipping company, COSCO, plans to trial the technology by fitting the sails to a tanker ship and a bulker ship.

Dr Robert Dane, Chief Executive of Solar Sailor, said that the sails can pay for themselves in fuel savings within four years, He said that they don’t require special training to operate, with a computer linked in to a ship’s existing navigation system, and sensors automatically angling the sails to catch a breeze and help vessels along.

The NSW Minister for Primary Industry, Ian Macdonald, said that “This is a breakthrough opportunity for Solar Sailor to play a leading role in the future of international shipping design during a period when rising fuel costs and environmental concerns have taken centre stage.”

Solar Sailor Cargo Ship
Solar Sailor Cargo Ship