The Winds of Change keep blowing

The Houlder team recently visited a wind-swept Hunterston Parc on the West coast of Scotland to mark a major milestone in the ‘Winds of Change’ project. The event, hosted by project lead Smart Green Shipping (SGS), marked the launch and start of onshore testing for the SGS FastRigTM  wing sail – a wind propulsion maritime clean technology.

Since the initial announcement of Houlder’s involvement and role, the project has moved on from the vessel survey and design integration feasibility analysis, as well as the initial Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulation work, to the more tangible real-world testing. The project team will then move on to the design integration and installation onboard the first ship.

The rigid wing sail currently stands 20 meters tall on the coast, whipped by the winds of the Scottish Lowlands, but more is happening than it might appear. Real-world performance data is being used to validate the CFD analysis, as well as to refine operational processes and accurately predict performance.

Diane Gilpin, CEO of Smart Green Shipping commented: “A lot of shipowners I’ve been talking to have said they want to see how the technology works before they install it. People are not necessarily convinced by the fuel-saving figures we see in the market from other clean technology providers. What we’re doing here is showing that our technology is going to do what we predicted it’s going to do. We’re calibrating what we predict in the lab with what we see in the real world, and I think that’s going to give the market a lot of confidence.

“These onshore tests are really all about safety, operations and performance verification. Houlder’s onboard performance monitoring work will be invaluable in helping us decide what to monitor, how to monitor it, and ultimately its support will give us accurate and verified fuel-saving figures.”

It was recently announced that the ship that will have the first FastRig installed is the Pacific Grebe – a nuclear waste carrier owned and operated by Nuclear Transport Solutions (NTS). Designed around the transportation of spent nuclear fuel, this ship and its operations have some of the highest design and safety requirements in the shipping industry. If the design and risk assessments meet all of NTS’ strict requirements, then the system has more than proven itself to the rest of the industry.

The FastRig will be in Hunterston until August before it is taken to be installed on the Pacific Grebe. Preparations are already underway on the vessel for the installation. The sea trials are expected to take place in autumn of this year, at which point further performance monitoring and verification will be done at sea.

The Winds of Change project is a collaboration between the University of Southampton, SGS, Humphreys Yacht Design, Houlder, Malin Group, Caley Ocean Systems, Argo Engineering, Lloyd’s Register, MOL DryBulk and Drax. The project runs from April 2023 to March 2025 and is funded by the UK Department for Transport as part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition Round 3 (CMDC3) – delivered in partnership with Innovate UK.

In Houlder’s recent qualitative decarbonisation whitepaper, shipowners identified a lack of good quality and relevant operating data as a key barrier to the uptake of efficiency technologies. There was also a perceived shortage of independent corroboration for the claims made by some technology vendors. Houlder’s work on the ‘Winds of Change’ project addresses this challenge.

This project also mirrors much of Houlder’s recent work, in which the latest CFD and digital twin technology are used to create sophisticated operational models that can be used to analyse adjustments to existing ship operations, to design brand new vessels, or to outline various ways to save fuel and cut associated GHG emissions on specific voyages or across all operations. To read more, click here.

To hear more about the Winds of Change project, we’d highly recommend listening to the Winds of Change Podcast and our Project Director, Arun Pillai featured in episode one, here.


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Rupert Hare, Chief Executive Officer