The Wind Beneath a Greener Ferry’s Wings


A small San Francisco startup, Wind+Wing Technologies, wants to take us back to the future with its concept for ferries equipped with carbon composite wings as sails, an idea that is also taking hold in a different form for ocean cargo vessels.
Ferries with sails are a natural for the Bay Area because of the strong prevailing winds. Wind+Wing, based in Napa, has come up with the nation’s first “winged and wind-assisted ferry vessel” for public use in the Bay Area.
The company says its design uses the wind in conjunction with the innovative wing and clean diesel motors to power and maneuver the vessel. “The fuel-saving design could save up to 40 percent of the fuel costs companies to ferries currently operating in the region,” it says.
Wind+Wing has been in communication with the Bay Area’s three major ferry operators and wants to present formally its plans to develop a demonstration vessel and eventually a public passenger ferry. The operators, Blue & Gold Fleet; Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District and the Water Emergency Transportation Authority, have expressed interest in the project.
Wind+Wing is working with Morrelli & Melvin Designs & Engineering on the design of the boat and with Harbor Wing Technologies on the design and engineering of the wings.
Rather than the typical canvas rigging of standard sailboats, Wind+Wing’s design features two sails that resemble aircraft wings, only vertically positioned on a single-deck catamaran hull. The wings would not eliminate the need for an engine. There are two designs contemplated at the moment, one for a 149-passenger ferry, the other for a 400-passenger ferry.
Jay Gardner, a company co-owner, says Wind+Wing plans to build a small demonstration version of the ferry next year. A wind-assisted ferry could cost from $3 million to $9 million, he says. The company is seeking financing at the moment.
While a winged ferry for the Bay Area is still in the small-scale prototype and look-see phase and thus more concept than reality, Beluga Group, a German project and heavy-lift cargo vessel operator, uses what’s called a “towing kite” system aboard its MV Beluga Skysails to haul cargo. See 3P’s “Kite Driven Beluga Skysail Completes 12,000 Mile Journey and Proves Concept.”
When deployed the 160-meter sail, developed by the Hamburg-based SkySails GmbH & Co., can reduce fuel consumption by about 20 percent.
On one its early voyages, the Beluga Skysails called at the Port of Longview, WA in 2008 carrying, you guessed it, wind turbines.

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