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Econowind Expands with Support from NOM and Horizon Flevoland
Econowind and Conoship developed 30-Metre High Sails for Large Ocean-Going Vessels
Harnessing the power of the wind, Econowind, a Dutch company related to Conoship International, is revolutionizing ocean-going vessel efficiency with its innovative ‘VentoFoils’. These cutting-edge sails, manufactured in Zeewolde and Warten, offer ship owners the potential to slash fuel consumption by up to 30%, a significant stride towards enhancing sustainability in the shipping industry. To propel rapid growth, we are thrilled to share that their efforts in advancing sustainable transportation received a substantial investment from the Investment and Development Agency for the Northern Netherlands (NOM) and Horizon Flevoland.
Imagine Econowind’s VentoFoil as a vertical aircraft wing, converting wind into forward thrust for ships. Internal fans amplify this effect, resulting in substantial reductions in fuel consumption, a vital consideration given the rising costs of marine fuels. Frank Nieuwenhuis, the managing director, notes, “We have been developing for five years and are now facing major growth”.
Since 2016, Econowind has been at the forefront of wind propulsion for seagoing vessels. The technology that the company produces was first developed by Conoship, and the 16-meter aluminium VentoFoil was elaborated by Econowind and ideally suited for the shortsea market, at its Zeewolde facility. Econowind partnered with Conoship International and Bijlsma shipyard in Warten to develop and construct the 30-meter high steel VentoFoils, for large ocean-going vessels. “We expect a lot of growth to come from this sector. With this full range of wind sails, we can serve various market segments and further expand our international leading position” says Frank Nieuwenhuis.
Investment Fuels Expansion
Econowind’s ambitious growth plans necessitate capital infusion, prompting NOM and Horizon Flevoland’s investment. With their support, Econowind can accelerate production expansion. Nieuwenhuis outlines their vision, “By 2027, we aim to produce at least one sail per day in Zeewolde, Warten, and another global location. With over 50,000 active seagoing vessels, the market potential is vast.”
Moreover, the company is streamlining control systems, automating sail deployment, and integrating Artificial Intelligence. Nieuwenhuis explains,
“We are further automating the control systems. Now the sails go up automatically and when the wind is too strong, they fold in. The crew is not involved with operating the VentoFoils. And soon customers will be able to get even more efficiency out of the VentoFoils due to Artificial Intelligence. Information about the wind will be integrated into the models. We will convert the wind forecast into direct advice on the most optimal sailing route. That means deviating from the shortest route to go faster with the wind.”
Stricter environmental regulations for ocean-going vessels are on the horizon, with the CO₂ tax set to take effect in 2024, prompting ship owners to accelerate sustainability efforts. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is targeting a 40% reduction in CO₂ emissions for shipping. Nieuwenhuis emphasizes,
“The time is ripe: sustainability is high on the agenda in the industry. Shipping companies are striving for fuel economy: wind propulsion is a proven and fuel-independent solution. The payback time for current ships is around five years. With the VentoFoils, ships can reduce fuel consumption by up to 30% at voyage level.”
Econowind has installed and rigorously tested sixteen wings in recent years, demonstrating their reliability in challenging maritime conditions. VentoFoils can be retrofitted onto existing vessels or seamlessly integrated into new builds. Nieuwenhuis concludes, “We’ve streamlined the production time for a 16-meter wing to just a few months, which is exceptionally fast in our industry. Our commitment to quick delivery is mirrored in our robust order book, a testament to the market’s confidence in us.”
Allard ter Horst, an investment manager at NOM, highlights the rationale behind their investment, stating,
“Making the maritime sector more innovative and sustainable is one of our spearheads. Production in Warten, Friesland, gets the north of the Netherlands really involved. Econowind already has contracts with shipyards and shipowners at home and abroad. With a mature team, the company makes super interesting products for the maritime future. We are happy to be part of that. Moreover, it leads to employment in the region. We welcome that.”
Inge Verschuur of Horizon Flevoland echoes enthusiasm for Econowind, saying,
“We expect that the company can grow very fast in the short term. That is why Econowind fits into our Growth Fund. We are impressed by the team and the other shareholders, who also provide expert advice. Innovation is a spearhead for us, but we are also there to help achieve growth. In that respect, we think Econowind is an inspiring example and we have high expectations.”
Econowind’s groundbreaking VentoFoils represent a pivotal stride towards a more sustainable and efficient future for the maritime industry. With the support of NOM and Horizon Flevoland, the company is poised for exponential growth, propelling wind propulsion technology into the mainstream. With Econowind’s automated control systems and integration of Artificial Intelligence, they are not only reducing fuel consumption but also revolutionizing the way ships navigate the seas. The success story of Econowind underscores the immense potential for innovation and sustainability in the maritime sector, offering not only economic benefits but also a cleaner, greener future for our oceans.
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