The last time I heard of solar sails, they were in an Arthur C. Clarke novel.
Here on earth, we now have different possibilities:
Late last month, the Australian Solar Sailor company announced they’d signed a deal with China’s biggest shipping line, COSCO, to fit some of their jumbo jet sized solar-powered sails to a tanker and bulk carrier. The 30 metre long sails, festooned in photovoltaic panels are expected to catch enough wind to reduce fuel costs by between 20% and 40%, whilst those PV cells will provide the ships with 5% of their electricity. A computer automatically angles the sails for maximum wind and solar efficiency, and if all goes to plan the sails will have recovered their initial cost within four years.
Tip o’ the organic hat to TreeHugger. Now if only we could get above that tiny 5%…