The life of an innovator is full of challenges. For Eric Norelius, one of them came when testing a mock-up of his early ideas for wind powered propulsion of ships.
- We rigged a three meter tower with the propeller on my sailboat to measure thrust and power generation derived from the turbine. The PROPit solution worked fine, but my sailboat was not designed to meet the powers produced, so one of the fastenings gave, and we took in a respectable amount of water. A couple of scary moments followed until we had control of the situation. But we proved the principle: thrust and electricity were produced in line with our caluclations.
With Eric's background nothing less should be expected.
Having grown up in Stockholm, with a technical education, he soon became involved in multiple projects involving fluid mechanics. He has many innovative solutions in the domain on his record, including gas injection solutions for combustion processes - increasing efficiency and reducing anthropogenic emissions.
- My interests in fluid mechanics was one thing. But I'm also a keen sailor, having navigated throughout the Baltic and actually won a few of the major regattas. So my professional know-how combined with my interest in sailing naturallay led to thoughts and ideas on wind-based propulsion.
Having studied the issues related to ocean shipping, Eric came up with the propeller-based solution which now is being brought to market by PROPit.
- I saw that there were a couple of solutions out there based on wind propulsion; sails, kites and more, but they often required quite some operational handling from the crew. I understood that shippers require a solution where ease-of use and safe operations are key issues.
Rather than looking att conventional wind propulsion technologies (sails basically) Eric looked to what the energy industry was doing.
- A propeller fundamentally works like a sail, producing the same forces as a sail does. For the land based wind turbines you try to minimize those effects and you let the structures absorb the thrust produced. At sea though, you can let those forces work for you and produce both a propulsion effect ... and produce electricity at the same time!
Eric's basic ideas were tested and tested again. (The sailboat incident was just one of his creative test schemes. Towing a 3 meter tower behind his SUV, was another. The traffic police were rather interested in that..) Eventually the idea caught the attention of researchers at Chalmers University of technology in Gothenburg, who put it through rigid theroretical analysis, as well as practical evaluation.
- Based on their calculations an ocean going VLCC could save between 15 - 20% in fuel consumption, which represents dollar savings in the millions.
Eric's innovation has now moved beyond the academic analysis and into prototype testing, live at sea. The solution has garnered wide interest and a cross-discipline project team is currently advancing the project further. Those include PROPit, Chalmers University of technology as well as ship owners, routing solution providers, and certification and classication companies.
- There are of course more aspects to this solution, which is why we are engineering safety and security solutions, routing and more.
And his sailboat?
-It took some repair work and it sailed fine after that. But, I'll confess, for my leasure sailing I'm still using conventional sails.