Canada’s ZShips has developed a clean-tech means of powering ships from the very waves they traverse. Brian Dixon reports
ZShips International Community Contribution Company was founded in Vancouver in 2015 to address what director and interim CEO Jose Luis Gutierrez-Garcia describes as a number of “persistent problems” facing the shipping industry. These include increasing emissions regulations; new environmental standards; changing public and customer opinion regarding the issues of air and water pollution; and the need for shipowners to meet ever more stringent CO2 emissions targets.
“Shipowners need to meet emissions regulations and want to save money,” he says. However, to achieve these two goals, they will need to deploy energy-efficient systems for the production, storage and conversion of energy, which is where ZShips comes to the fore, with its proprietary wave-to-energy conversion technology offering users the potential to unlock numerous economic and environmental benefits.
Employing oscillating water columns (OWCs) – “a proven ocean wave conversion technology in real-world conditions” – retrofitted into a vessel’s hull, the company’s technology uses the power of the waves to compress trapped air that can then be used to power turbines for the generation of electricity. Whether used immediately or stored for later, this can be used for vessel propulsion, the provision of auxiliary power or both as required.
Particularly suited to low-speed vessels with displacement hulls of at least 30 metres in length, the ZShips’ technology can potentially be applied to numerous commercial vessel types, ranging from fishing boats and superyachts to ferries and Panamax cargo ships. Indeed, the larger the ship the more power the system can arguably produce as the greater area available means the more OWCs can be installed.
Complementing other renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, rigid-solar and rotor wind sails, wind turbines and magnetic engine generators, the ZShips technology, Gutierrez-Garcia calculates, has the scope to reduce a ship’s energy consumption by a full 100% depending on application. Furthermore, as well as resulting in “zero fossil fuel usage; zero ongoing fuel costs; [and] zero SOx, NOx and CO2 emissions” the system can also lead to lowered levels of underwater noise and vibration thus further reducing a vessel’s impact on aquatic life and marine ecosystems.
Moreover, by taking energy from the sea itself, the ZShips’ technology taps into an essentially limitless power supply, so negating the need for refuelling or the replacement of batteries. As such, it offers users an “unlimited navigation range”, something that clearly lends itself to applications within the growing sphere of autonomous research vessels.
While the technology has yet to be deployed in real-world maritime situations, the company is keen to work with partners and investors in helping them shrink their environment footprints and fuel bills, with the company able to provide a number of service, including pre-retrofitting and pre-construction planning; 3D virtual modelling; and project management.
A member of the World Alliance for Efficient Solutions by the Solar Impulse Foundation, ZShips has a partnership in place with the Biomimetic Surface Engineering Laboratory at the Department of Chemical Engineering at McGill University in Quebec.