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Prototype Wind-Powered Ferry Technology Could Lead To Greener SF Bay Transportation

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A catamaran boat outfitted with a 40 foot tall rigid WingSail has been sailing Bay Area ferry routes to test the novel idea of using wind assistance to help propel ferry vessels of the future - reducing fuel use and air pollution.

A catamaran boat outfitted with a 40-foot rigid WingSail on display at Pier 1.5 in San Francisco, May 1, 2014. (Anna Duckworth/CBS)

AnnaDuckworth20100909_KCBS_0483r Anna Duckworth
Anna started her broadcasting career at KCBS in 1994, a few mont...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A prototype wind-powered ferry boat being developed on the San Francisco Bay could put more force behind San Francisco’s reputation as the other windy city.

The project is centered around a carbon fiber sail, what the developers call a wing, that could be mounted on ferry boats and turn them into the equivalent of a hybrid vehicle.

Damian Breen is Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, who along with the California Air Resources Board, helped to fund the project.

“The idea is, as you use the technology, and as you use the wing itself, it allows you to propel the vessel without having to use the diesel engines as much,” Breen said.

The 40-foot tall WingSail was designed by Richard Jenkins, CEO and Co-Founder of the Saildrone, which combines state-of-the-art carbon fiber composites, computer control and ultra-efficient aero and hydro dynamics to create a more efficient sailing machine.

“This is the first prototype and San Francisco is the perfect venue to test this technology,” he said. “It’s one of the few locations in the world, all harbors are windy, but San Francisco is incredibly windy.”

Napa-based Wind + Wing Technologies was awarded a $355,000 grant for the project and the company’s Co-Founder and President Jay Gardner said the technology would drastically cut the annual fuel cost for ferry boats. “A single ferry doing a six mile trip between San Francisco Bay and Sausalito will burn about $2 million worth of fuel a year,” he said.

Gardner and his colleagues have been testing out the technology on a 45-foot catamaran since February. If it proves successful, they said it could have a major impact on the reduction of fuel use, air pollution and greenhouse gases, while also providing a safe and reliable service.

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