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Oceans of opportunity for Norsepower’s cleantech

The Norsepower Rotor Sail Solution can reduce fuel costs by 20 per cent annually.Sea-Cargo

This clean technology and marine engineering company has patented a mechanical sail allowing vessels to harness wind power, cutting both costs and carbon footprint.

Norsepower’s office lies by a straight of water running between the Helsinki neighbourhoods of Lauttasaari and Ruoholahti. This forms a fitting backdrop for CEO Tuomas Riski as he muses on the topic of ship propulsion – something that he has been discussing a lot recently.

Altogether, the company has received around 10 million euros in funding for its Norsepower Rotor Sail Solution, which has modernised the Flettner Rotor. Harnessing wind power to create forward propulsion, these cylindrical sails allow a ship’s main engines to be throttled back. They can be used with new vessels or retrofitted to existing ships.

As a result of this forward motion, the solution also enables freight ships to reduce fuel and emissions. The latter is one of the main factors that drew Riski to the project in the first place; a positive environmental impact for an industry that has traditionally been considered far from spotless.

“This is cleantech at its cleanest,” he says. “The technology’s potential to reduce an industry’s total carbon emissions is simply staggering.”

Setting sail

Given all this talk of propulsion, it’s fitting that the business has been moving at a considerable pace. It took Riski and his team two years following the founding of the company in 2012 to make the prototype. Only two months into its existence, Norsepower had secured a contract to test out its technology on ship company Bore’s M/S Estraden vessel, a 9 700 DWT roll-on/roll-off carrier.

Tuomas Riski points to the simplicity of the idea as a reason for Norsepower’s success: “We set out knowing how to go about making a mechanical sail.” Image: Norsepower

“Shipping is a conservative, risk-averse industry,” Riski explains. “We needed to prove that at the very least, the prototype wouldn’t cause them any harm.”

Modernising the Flettner Rotor meant making it as light, balanced, and aerodynamic as possible. In that vein, Norsepower developed production methods, composites and automation technology, ensuring the sail needs little attention from the crew during a journey. “We’ve gotten pretty much all of the elements of the sail patented,” Riski recounts.

A good idea that does good

Following the installation of the prototype and the subsequent third-party verified data on the technology’s efficacy, Finnish shipping company Bore ordered a second spinning sail for the M/S Estraden, which bodes well for the response within the shipping industry. Installations due to take place this year include a 24-metre rotor sail for Swedish cruise company Viking Line’s Grace ship, and two 30-metre rotor sails for a Maersk tanker.

With M/S Estraden’s two rotor sails cutting fuel costs by over six per cent, stemming 1 200 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually, the potential cumulative effect across a market of 20 000 cargo ships is indeed simply staggering.

All of this has not gone unnoticed. ​Norsepower was pinpointed by Wired as one of the 10 hottest Helsinki startups of 2017. The industry has also sat up and paid attention. The company has been recognised with a number of accolades in recent times, with Riski also the recipient of Nor-Shipping’s 2017 Young Entrepreneur Award

“This is just the beginning for what we hope will be the start of a cleaner, more efficient, and sustainable shipping industry,” he said at the time. “Norsepower is proud to be playing its part in contributing to this vision.”

By: Heidi Aho