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Engineers of Susd... A question!


I am currently reading World War Z and have come across the description of an ‘infinity ship’. This ship uses wind turbines for electricity to power the vessel. Now. I don’t think this would work!

Wouldn’t the power loss from the turbines to the drive shaft be such that this ship could never sail against the wind? Or at all?


Well, clearly it’s sort of possible, because sailing ships work. But the best sail-assist system I’ve heard of, Aquarius MRE, only gets you fuel savings of 5%-20% with both wind and solar boosts.


And that’s with a lot of specialised hardware and expensive development time, not during a zombie apocalypse. I’m sure if ship-owners could stick commodity wind turbines on their ships and save a bunch of fuel, they’d be looking into it, even in the current climate of relatively cheap oil.


Slightly tangential but the UK Antarctic survey team are trialing small boats to monitor currents powered by only solar and wave action, so I would assume a ship could be powered by renewables. I’m assuming it would still be an infinity ship…

Great book choice btw.


The answer is, as usual, vectors! Theoretically, some amount of energy production could be created in some circumstances by turning the wind turbines perpendicular to the direction of the ship’s movement or, perhaps more likely, I haven’t done the math, the ship’s rudder/mechanism-that-enables-tacking-into-the-wind…

That said, I’m a network engineer and not qualified to answer this question!

I have a friend who is both a physicist and a Navy veteran… I’ll ask him if he agrees next time I see him


If you can run the turbines to charge up great big batteries before you set out, that’ll probably work better.

There are solar-powered high-altitude aircraft with undefined range (though they don’t carry much payload).


Ah, fair enough. It just seemed… a little far fetched for me!

Thanks! I’m reading it very slowly though.

Sounds like the perfect expert!

That was my thought.


There’s also issues with needing on demand power. A vessel cannot just rely on the wind being strong enough to generate power to at least maintain position against current, tides (and wind). My memory of the book is hazy, but I would make more sense if the vessels are static structures held immobile by anchors. Otherwise it’s batteries all the way, and there’s not exactly a current solution to that problem for tackling the non-constant nature of renewable energy sources. Although there’s some interesting research in using renewable energy to create hydrogen and using that as a power source.


Didn’t someone do an actual cost-analysis-risk algorithm of this? I’ll see if I can find the article of this again and I’l post it here (I don’t think it actually helped me, though).


Would it be something like this (on a much larger scale?)