Optiwise: reducing energy use for shipping

A close up of Anemoi's mechanical sails on a commercial ship

A Horizon Europe guarantee grant is enabling UK company Anemoi to be part of Optiwise, a Horizon Europe project that could reduce energy use in commercial shipping by up to 50%.

Emissions produced by international shipping increased by 5% in 2021 and the sector is not currently on track to meet targets proposed by the International Energy Agency. Shipping activity is expected to grow over the coming years, and innovation will be key to reducing emissions.

Optiwise is a Horizon Europe project that’s exploring how the wind could be used to help get shipping on track for net zero. It expects to reduce the energy used by commercial ships by 30 to 50%.

The project is run by a consortium made up of partners from seven European countries, including Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands. The UK is represented by wind propulsion company Anemoi Marine Technologies.

Rotor sails could reduce emissions

Anemoi makes mechanical sails, which are tall cylinders fixed on ship decks known as ‘rotor sails’ or Flettner rotors. They can be installed on new vessels or retrofitted to existing ones. When the wind blows, the rotor sails are driven to spin with on-board energy then, thanks to the Magnus effect, the rotor sails propel the ship, giving an additional thrust that reduces the net fuel consumption and lowers emissions.

The company’s role in the project is to investigate how rotor sails fitted on a new and retrofit concept vessel could reduce emissions further in conjunction with other improvements and advancements.

Ship at docks with Anemoi rotor sails

A commercial ship with four Anemoi rotor sails

Sam Faraghi is a Naval Architect at Anemoi. He said:

We’re looking at bulk carriers ships that transport unpackaged bulk materials, for example, grain, in their holds. Our rotor sails are already efficient but this project looks to increase fuel and emission reduction further by taking a holistic approach and designing the vessel from the ground up to optimise sail performance.

For example, we can use a controllable pitch propeller rather than a fixed-pitch propeller, which would help the rotor sails and the ship’s engine work more efficiently together as a system. Even just allowing a vessel to have more rotor sails than the conventional installation. If we can add an extra sail, that would give us a huge increase in energy savings.

Companies get guarantee funding

Optiwise is one of many Horizon Europe projects that the UK continues to participate in. During the delay to UK association to the EU funding programme, UK Research and Innovation is guaranteeing funding to UK researchers and innovators who apply successfully to Horizon Europe.

Sam said:

If a company thinks its project or its part in a consortium’s project meets the criteria, they should apply.

The process of applying wasn’t difficult and is achievable even with limited resources to dedicate to grant applications. Anemoi is a small but fast-growing company focusing our resources on engineering and project delivery, and our grant application was successful!

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