Thordon bearings provide robust support for Wind Power-in-a-Box technology

Thordon Bearings is supplying its grease-free, self-lubricating ThorPlas Blue bearing material for a novel containerized wind propulsion system designed to reduce fuel consumption and fossil fuel emissions on all types of commercial vessels.

The rigid sail system — developed by entrepreneurs Miles Keeney-Ritchie and Satchel Douglas, co-founders of Boston, Massachusetts, USA-based startup Aloft Systems — is a rigid aluminum and composite airfoil installed in a 16 m (53 ft) long shipping container automatically unfolds when the wind is sufficient to propel the ship forward.

Four ThorPlas Blue bearings were machined and fitted into a 1/4 scale prototype to allow the sails to be folded, rotated 360 degrees and pivoted to optimize wind conditions. Thordon will supply the material to major units once the contractors have partnered with a shipowner to test the system with.

Aloft Systems Technical Director Satchel Douglas said: “We contacted a number of bearing manufacturers but chose Thordon material as it is as strong and low maintenance as possible. We needed a fit-and-forget solution that could withstand high loads and pressures. And with ThorPlas-Blue there is no maintenance, no grease, no corrosion. That was exactly what we were looking for.”

Jason Perry, Thordon Bearings Regional Manager – North America said: “Aloft Systems is fully aligned with our mission statement and ethos of environmental sustainability, so we are excited to be a part of this innovative and important project from the start. The sheer ingenuity of something like this has the potential to convert the entire global shipping industry to wind power. Aloft hit the sweet spot.”

Full-size, two Aloft sail units, each containing a pair of 15 m (49.2 ft) long and 3 m (9.8 ft) wide folding sails, can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by at least 6%. Depending on vessel size and configuration, more units could increase fuel savings.

Sails extend 18.3 m (60 ft) above deck when fully extended.

“The goal is not to replace the ship’s existing propulsion system, but to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and help shipowners meet their emissions targets without taking ships out of service,” said CEO Keeney-Ritchie.

“The beauty of this is that shipowners can change the number of units on their ships for each voyage to best balance fuel savings with cargo needs. It is not a fixed installation, the sails can be moved from ship to ship.”

While wind propulsion technology has matured, the industry cannot wait and today needs a system that can be easily installed and fitted into existing vessels to meet the breadth of emissions legislation.

The modular, high-thrust, autonomous propulsion system that Aloft Systems developed does just that. It can be easily lifted onto the deck of any vessel without the need for structural modifications, piping, wiring, or dry docking.

“If shipowners want to make a difference now, if they want to save fuel and reduce CO2 emissions now, it’s wind power that will get them where they need to be faster and more cheaply than any other form of renewable propulsion,” he told Keeney-Ritchie. “We plan for a 25-year lifespan, with ROI directly related to the fuel costs we save. What sets our solution apart is that the installation cost is essentially zero, while the installation cost for other systems can be almost as high as the unit itself (i.e. almost twice the effective cost).”

Craig Carter, VP Business Development at Thordon Bearings added: “As a member of the International Wind Ship Association (IWSA), we are committed to supporting new developments in sustainable propulsion technology. Wind is currently the only zero-emission means of propulsion, and Aloft Systems has found a way to make that power available to all ships.” After successfully demonstrating the technology on land with the ¼-scale prototype, Aloft Systems is now actively working with ship operators to to test a full-size version on an ocean-going pilot ship.

Related Articles

Back to top button

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Don't miss new updates on your email