Dutch company Econowind has attracted new financing from Investment and Development Agency for the Northern Netherlands (NOM) and Horizon Flevoland which will enable the company to scale up production of its ‘VentoFoil’ wind assisted propulsion in its facilities in Zeewolde and Warten.
The VentoFoil sails are said to enable ship owners to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30%. Econowind’s VentoFoil is described as a vertical aircraft wing-type device that converts wind into forward thrust of the ship. Internal fans reinforce the effect thus making a significant difference to fuel consumption.
MD Frank Nieuwenhuis said: “We have been developing for five years and are now facing major growth. But we are now also collaborating with Bijlsma shipyard in Warten, where we are building the 30m high steel VentoFoils, which are perfect for large ocean-going vessels. We expect a lot of growth to come from this sector as well. With this full range of wind sails, we can serve various market segments and further expand our international leading position.”
The additional investment will allow Econowind to go ahead and scale up production, as the company sees the global market as very large..
Nieuwenhuis added: “We are further automating the control systems. Now the sails go up automatically and when the wind is too strong, they fold in. The crew is not involved with operating the VentoFoils. And soon customers will be able to get even more efficiency out of the VentoFoils due to Artificial Intelligence. Information about the wind will be integrated into the models. We will convert the wind forecast into direct advice on the most optimal sailing route. That means deviating from the shortest route to go faster with the wind. The time is ripe: sustainability is high on the agenda in the industry. Shipping companies are striving for fuel economy: wind propulsion is a proven and fuel-independent solution. The payback time for current ships is around five years. With the VentoFoils, ships can reduce fuel consumption by up to 30% at voyage level.”
In recent years, Econowind has installed and extensively tested 16 wings, and reduced the production time of a 16m wing to a few months.
Nieuwenhuis said: “This is very fast in this industry. We want to be able to deliver quickly because our customers ask for this. You can see the confidence of the market reflected in the order book.”