Like it or not, we still get most of our goods from overseas. And the cargo ships that transport our products use massive amounts of energy–on average, a 1,000-foot ship carrying 8,000 cargo containers sucks up as much as six megawatts of power, or enough electricity to power 4,000 homes. Now Tokyo-based shipping company NYK Line is trying to cut down on diesel power with the 665 foot long car carrier ship, the M/V Auriga Leader.
The ship has 328 solar panels on its top deck that provide 40 kilowatts of power. The Auriga set sail in Japan last year, but docked at the Port of Long Beach–the second busiest port in the U.S.–for the first time last week. Other ships have put solar panels on cargo ships before, but only to provide auxiliary power. The Auriga’s panels will direct power into the main electrical grid to power everything from the ship’s thrusters to hydraulics for the steering gear. Still, even 328 panels can’t provide all the ship’s power–the array provides 10% of the Auriga’s energy while docked. But it’s a start for an industry notorious for clogging up the atmosphere with greenhouse gas emissions.
NYK hasn’t yet made concrete plans to mass produce the Auriga Leader. For the next few years, NYK will conduct field experiments to check the ship’s endurance against saltwater damage, wind pressure, constant vibrations, and more. During that time, Toyota will use the ship to transport cars between the U.S. and Japan. NYK has also shown off other carbon-cutting shipping ideas. The NYK Super Eco Ship 2030 concept uses liquified natural gas-powered hydrogen fuel cells to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 69%.