Sea freighters – wind for cleaner maritime transport?

NEW WIND ENERGY SERIES (2): Hamburg towing kite demonstrates environmentally friendly wind drives for ships

Thousands of years ago, when engines were unknown, people were well aware of the enormous potential of wind at sea. Nowadays, all kinds of container ships navigate the high seas. Some are powered by gas. while others use fuel cells or electricity generated by photovoltaics.


Wind propulsion of ships is experiencing a revival due to hazardous chemicals in the paint of ships, exotic organisms in ballast water as well as the discharge of sewage and wastes into the sea. a cacophony of ship sounds also have a negative impact on the marine environment. But it is the exhaust gases emitted by gigantic engines running on toxic heavy fuel oil that pose the most problems.

Shipping accounts for some 2.6 percent of climate-damaging CO2 emissions and in 2015 they were around 932 million tonnes – more than Germany emits each year. But CO2 is the least problematic. Sulfur dioxide swirls from the chimneys of gigantic ships, some of which exceed 300 meters in height, causing acid rain and damaging people’s mucous membranes. Oxides of nitrogen which irritate the respiratory tract and cause smog are also emitted. The particles enter the respiratory tract and cause dangerous lung disease and cancer. Catalytic converters like those in cars or trucks are “virtually non-existent on ships,” said Daniel Rieger, head of transport policy at the German Society for the Conservation of Nature (NABU).

High-tech Dyna-Rig

The enormous extent of the pollution is reason enough to rely on the wind. The luxurious 143-meter-long and 25-meter-wide A sailboat is one of the most powerful and impressive yachts in the world. Three 90-meter masts carry up to 3,700 square meters of sails and accelerate the yacht to a speed of 21 knots or 40 kilometers per hour. Another promising sail propulsion system, the Dyna-Rigg on the three-masted Maltese Falcon, has square sails on rotating masts that can be automatically extended and retracted. The sails of the ship form a large enclosed space Рan idea that dates back to the 1960s when Wilhelm Pr̦lss proposed the design in Hamburg.


Mankind has used wind power for thousands of years. Wind power is now more important than ever in the context of ongoing climate change and the conversion of energy into renewable energy sources. Daniel Hauptmann’s book shows other possibilities for harnessing wind power, when the power of inventors and investors is added on a large scale. The author goes far beyond the usual perspective of wind power to generate electricity and gives other fascinating examples – from wind-powered freighters and racing cars to floating wind turbines. The author highlights the technical facts and the environmental impact of each example. Daniel Hautmann: Windkraft neu gedacht. Erstaunliche Beispiele für die Nutzung einer unerschöpflichen Resource, Hanser Verlag, Munich 2020, 229 pages, hardcover edition EUR 39.99, EUR 31.99.


Daniel Hautmann, 45, has been writing about technology, energy and the environment for twenty years. He is an industrial mechanic by training, editor-in-chief of specialist journals and specializes in renewable energies, particularly wind power. He competed with a world champion in windsurfing and flew headfirst in a glider with the European champion in aerobatics. His texts have been published in Brand Eins, Technology Review and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, among others. He occasionally presents radio shows, produces podcasts and writes books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.