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Thanks to wind, ocean-going vessels can sail more efficiently. Dutch company Econowind builds wind sails, which allow ship owners to reduce fuel consumption by up to 30%. This contributes to making shipping more sustainable. The Investment and Development Agency for the Northern Netherlands (NOM) and Horizon Flevoland are investing in the scale-up to enable rapid growth.

  • Econowind’s innovative wind sails help ship owners reduce fuel consumption by up to 30%;
  • By supporting Econowind’s growth, the Investment and Development Company for the Northern Netherlands (NOM) and Horizon Flevoland are contributing to the sustainability of the shipping sector, in line with stricter environmental regulations.

You can best describe the VentoFoil, the wind sail, as a vertical aircraft wing. This converts the wind at sea into forward thrust of the ship. The fans inside amplify the effect. And that makes a significant difference to the consumption of more expensive fuels. “We have been developing for five years and are now facing major growth,” says managing director Frank Nieuwenhuis.

Expected growth

Since 2016, Econowind has been pioneering wind propulsion for marine vessels. The 16-metre aluminium VentoFoil production takes place at the Zeewolde factory. These sails are ideally suited for the shortsea market. “But we now also have a collaboration with shipyard Bijlsma in Warten. There, we build the large steel VentoFoils, thirty metres high. These are perfect for large ocean-going vessels. We expect a lot of growth to come from there too.”

Investment lends wings

Capital is needed to grow the company. That is why NOM and Horizon Flevoland are both stepping into the company. With this participation, Econowind can go ahead and scale up production. The plans are ambitious. Nieuwenhuis: “In 2027, we will make at least one every day. In Zeewolde, Warten and at another location in the world. With over 50,000 active marine vessels, the market is incredibly large.”

Wind optimisation

“In addition, we are further automating the control of the systems. Now the sails go up automatically and when the wind is too strong, they fold. The crew does not have to operate the VentoFoils. Soon, customers will be able to get even more efficiency from the VentoFoils based on Artificial Intelligence. Wind information will be integrated into the models. We convert the wind forecast into direct advice on the most optimal sailing route. That means specifically deviating from the shortest route to go faster on the wind.”

Proven solution

In recent years, Econowind has installed and extensively tested 16 wings. It is a proven technology that is robust under the challenging conditions at sea. The VentoFoils are installed on existing ships and also integrated into new-build vessels. “Meanwhile, we have reduced the production time of a 16-metre wing to a few months. That is very fast in this industry.”