“Environmental matters? – Oh No! We had that already, it’s no more a topic”.
That is the usual way, how media and even politics re-act on future issues in our society governed by present profit and fun.
On the other hand, it is still the main business of Ship Model Basins to find ways of cutting energy consumption and emissions in sea transportation. Interestingly, however, relevant progress is traditionally measured as a gain in speed rather than as a saving in energy. While ships have but a small share in the quantity of global exhaust Emission, they are still allowed to burn the lowest quality of fuel, too dirty to be used for road construction.
And all that happens in spite of sea transportation being potentially by far the most energy-efficient mode of mass transportation at all – 10 times more efficient than rail & road and 100 times more so than air transport. This is valid however only for mass transportation at reasonable speeds. Fast container-, RORO- and passenger vessels at 25-30 knots ca. easily reach the specific energy consumption of rail & road, and fast ferries at 40-50 knots can even overtake air transport in specific energy consumption at only 1/10 of air speed.
The uniquely low energy demand of sea transportation at appropriate speed offers the chance of a high rate of supply by the low density sources of wind and sun. We could utilize the chance together with the high availability of wind and sun at sea and their combined less fluctuating energy income, to develop step by step a solar ship operation technology with less and less emissions. This could be a multi disciplinary pilot project to develop and demonstrate the feasibility of intelligent energy management on a field, where it is already possible today.
Although we are well aware of the long term necessity of change, we still act according to the narrow and short term criteria of industrial economics. Starting now, in time before the developing problems will force us, is not a technical nor an economic question, it is our problem of long term thinking and responsibility for the next generations. Before we are ready to accept this responsibility, we can only try to develop and demonstrate sustainable technology and management in certain niches with sufficient fun factor, like pleasure yachting and cruising, where environmental issues are so obvious that it is hard to ignore the lessons to be learned.
Diagr.: Specific Energy Demand of Different Transport Modes
(Photo: Sydney Solar Sailor)
“SYDNEY SOLAR SAILOR”
Photo: Solar Sailor Holdings Ltd. and Advanced Technology Watercraft Pty. Ltd.