Whisper and sidewinds

The EU funded WHISPER project has won a whopping €9.2m in grants and brings together a unique wind turbine concept, solar energy and wing sails.

The EU is funding a large maritime wind and solar project to the tune of €9.2m over four years. The amount could be the largest the EU has agreed to committed to a wind assist project.


WHISPER is an innovation project that aims to demonstrate that solar panels, a tiltable wingsail and a containerised wind turbine can be combined in two retrofit scenarios to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30% on a bulk vessel, and 15% on a containership.


The consortium set to deliver the results is largely from Iceland, but includes Ayro from France which is responsible for the wingsails on Canope and Italy’s Solbian which is already supplying photovoltaic cells to the leisure industry, survey drones and expeditions. Class society Lloyd’s Register is also part of the consortium.


The European Union has said that the Horizon research and innovation funding programme that ill run from 2023 until 2027 has a budget of €95.5bn across all European industry and social areas. It already lists over 14 maritime related projects but only one other, OPTIWISE which has received €4.7m in EU funds looks at wind propulsion. AYRO is also part of that consortium.

A chance to prove itself

The main Icelandic technology in the WHISPER project is Sidewind, a start-up company that has patented a containerised wind turbine that can be lowered onto and lifted off almost any vessels and used to generate electricity that can be fed into a vessel’s power system.


Sidewind has already won funding to build a first industrial wind turbine using a recycled container, being tested by Samskip

Small turbines are common at sea, with many yachters using the basic principle to recharge onboard batteries, but this concept takes it to a totally different level – the potential of the idea is for the generation of up to 50kw per turbine and with multiple turbines, even up to a hundred, being used on a single ship.


Sidewind is a husband-and-wife team, María Kristín Þrastardóttir and Óskar Svavarsson.


Talking to Fathom World, Óskar Svavarsson said the basic idea is to take a used container, take the sides off an install a specially designed hard plastic turbine blade made of recycled material.


The name, Sidewind comes from the belief that the system will pick up the side winds over a vessel, and then be used in a modern vessel (diesel-electric) to feed into an electricity power system or to be used to recharge batteries.

By joining the project, said Þrastardóttir, the concept will be tested to see what challenges will need to be overcome in using the system in an extreme environment.

It will also help them identify any operational questions that need addressing such as ensuring the systems do not obstruct cargo operations, can be easily coupled and decoupled from a ship’s grid system and also how much energy savings can be produced.

Has Brussels got wind of wind?

The WHISPER project will help demonstrate how wind assist, green electricity generation from wind and form solar can be used onboard. AYRO and Sidewind are not the first to gain EU funding, but they have certainly joined a consortium to get a large amount than previous efforts.


This is good news for the nascent wind assist industry say Gavin Allwright at the International Wind Ship Association.


The association promotes wind assist and full wind systems for commercial shipping and Allwright said this is just the first of a number of project announcement likely this year that will help demonstrate wind power and energy integration solutions It is he said policy makers recognising and appreciating that this is a potential part of the future.

“When we’re seeing projects like this coming through quite a competitive horizon process means that the value is being really appreciated,” he said. “We’re probably looking at only a few percent of projects getting through (the call and application process) and when we have, when propulsion and other direct renewable energy solutions coming to the top of that, I think that shows the appreciation of these within the horizon process, but also within the wider EU framework as well.”

WHISPER Consortium members:


Verkis, Iceland, a consultancy and project lead

Sidewind, Iceland, a technology startup

Samskip, Iceland, a shipping company

Athygli, Iceland, a marketing/PR company

BBA/FJeldco, Iceland, A law firm

Ayro, France, a technology design company

Stirling Design International, France, naval architects


CANOE, France, a materials R&D Centre

Lloyd’s Register. UK, a classification Society

Inspiralia, Spain, a consultancy

Soliban, Italy, a technology company

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