UK engineering start-up gets financial boost for new wind propulsion system

UK-based maritime engineering start-up WingTek, in collaboration with the University of Bristol and the National Composites Centre, has won a £2.2 million ($2.7 million) innovation grant for the development of a new wind auxiliary propulsion (WAP) system.

Credit: WingTek

Awarded under the UK Department for Transport Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, the funding from Innovate UK is to develop further the WingTek Wingsail. Wind Auxiliary Propulsion is a technology that complements existing ship propulsion systems; primarily the marine diesel engines burning fossil fuels which power vessels of all types across the global fleet.

The project will deliver two full-size operational prototypes, one on-shore for long-term testing and development and a second unit installed on a commercial UK vessel for sea trials, with the project scheduled to be completed by March 2025.

Credit: WingTek

The University of Bristol will provide its knowledge in 2D and 3D computational fluid modeling of aerodynamics, wind tunnel facilities for physical model testing and energy system modeling.

Meanwhile, the National Composites Centre will contribute its knowledge and expertise in composite design and structural analysis in the development of the two demonstration prototypes.

“We are excited to be part of the WingTek Wings for Ships project. The WingTek Wind Assisted Propulsion technology being developed has the opportunity both to transform the emissions from shipping and allow straightforward adoption by the commercial fleet,” Professor Ann Gaitonde from University of Bristol’s School of Civil, Aerospace and Design Engineering, said.

“WingTek’s innovative Wind Auxiliary Propulsion system has received a significant boost thanks to the help and support of Innovate UK leading to this grant. We are delighted to be working with a fantastic set of project partners at the University of Bristol and the National Composites Centre and we are now well supported to fast-track the development on the route to commercial production,” Neil Richards, WingTek Managing Director, stated.

The company’s wind propulsion systems can be retrofitted to existing vessels, designed into newbuilds, and removed when decommissioned or re-installed on another vessel in the fleet.

There are around 55,000 commercial ships in excess of 5,000 tonnes worldwide, burning an estimated 250 million tonnes of fossil fuels annually.

On routes such as the North Atlantic and the North Sea, the savings can be substantial and rise significantly when used in conjunction with weather routing, according to the company’s Managing Director.

“We can save ship operators fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions, whether the ship has a traditional engine burning fossil fuels or one burning newer, but more expensive, clean alternatives. Any reduction in this colossal fuel consumption has immediate benefits,” Richardson concluded.