The SkySails propulsion system consists of a large foil kite, an electronic control system for the kite and an automatic system to retract the kite. The system bears similarities to kitesurfing. The system was first tested on the Baltic Sea, before commercial implementation. Because the wind is stronger aloft, they receive a higher thrust per unit area than conventional mast-mounted sails. A conventional ship with a SkySail-system burns less fuel, and has two propulsion methods, making it a type of hybrid vehicle. SkySail kite propulsion from upper wind power is a traction use of high altitude wind power.
MS Beluga SkySails was the first ship to use the system. The 132 m, 10,000 tonne vessel was fitted with a 160-square-metre (1,700 sq ft) kite and launched 17 December 2007 and departed the northern German port of Bremerhaven to Guanta, Venezuela in January 2008.
The ship completed its journey on 13 March 2008 after sailing from Germany to Venezuela, then to the United States, and ultimately arriving in Norway. While the kite was in use, the ship saved an estimated 10-15% fuel, $1,000 to $1,500 per day.
In early 2010, the company announced that it had sold one of its 160m² systems to be installed on the Maartje Theadora, the first application of the SkySails system on a fishing trawler. The vessel is described as Germany's largest fishing ship, and the kite is expected to reduce fuel costs on the runs to fishing grounds along the African coasts or the South Pacific.
The company was founded in 2001 by engineers Stephan Wrage and Thomas Meyer. In addition to the headquarters in Hamburg, a test facility was set up in Wismar. In the weak economy of 2012, a time of low investment by shipping companies, the company laid off half of its 80 employees. As of January 2016, it employs 50 people. SkySails sources its kites from North Sails New Zealand.
- "Ship kites in to port". Nature News. Nature. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
- "Kite-Driven Beluga Skysail Completes 12,000 Mile Journey and Proves Concept". Triple Pundit. 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2010-05-19. External link in
- Projekt WINTECC Layman's Report (3.1 SkySails-System) (PDF-file). Retrieved May 27, 2011 Archived March 24, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Skysails Performance Calculation (Operating days at sea). Retrieved May 27, 2011 Archived January 6, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Beluga Group, N-Series Main engine data - Speed & consumption HFO. Retrieved May 27, 2011[dead link]
- "Fishing trawler will be powered by a 160m2 kite propulsion system". SurferToday.com. Retrieved 27 June 2010.
- "SkySails GmbH - About SkySails". SkySails GmbH. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
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