The union was officially sealed on May 4 at the international exhibition dedicated to aggregate materials, JEC World, in Paris. Start-up Farwind Energy and the Loiretech group, a large component specialist for the aeronautics and space sector, have confirmed their intention to combine their knowledge and their resources with the goal of building a production sector for with Flettner rotors fifty meters high in the Nantes region.
The Flettner rotor is a rotating cylinder that uses the Magnus effect as air flows through the cylinder. The difference in speed translates into a difference in pressure, which creates a force perpendicular to the wind direction, an effect similar to that of a traditional sail. Thought by Finnish engineer Sigurd Savonius, the rotor relationship was demonstrated by Anton Flettner in crossing the Atlantic in 1926.
These rotors are one of four technological bricks (hull, hydro generators and energy converters) of the Farwind Energy project that aims to develop a solution for wind energy recovery in the open sea, from fleets of 5 to 10 ships. which is 80 meters long, armed with four Flettner Rotor. At a capacity of two megawatts, each ship can produce and store, if necessary, electricity, hydrogen and methanol, which can be delivered to hard-to-reach areas such as harbors, island ports, etc. “However, today few or no actors can make rotors that are fifty meters and five to seven meters wide”observation by Arnaud Poitou, former director of Ecole Centrale de Nantes and co-founder of Farwind Energy, who launched the “Farmotion” study on design, manufacturing and industrialization in the summer of 2021 with competition from Ecole Centrale de Nantes and the Loiretech group.
An initial investment of one million euros supported by the Pays de la Loire region in the amount of almost 600,000 euros. “The prospect of the emergence of a rotor manufacturing sector could lead to the creation of 300 to 500 jobs in the territory by 2030”assured Arnaud Poitou.
A new diversification for Loiretech
For Loiretech, a supplier of molds and tools for the manufacture of composite parts, which began to diversify in the medical and new energy sectors within the framework of France’s Aerospace Relaunch Plan to reduce disruption in aeronautics , it is a new door that opens. Over the course of the crisis, Loiretech saw its turnover drop from 15 to 9 million euros and it decided to reduce its workforce from 140 to 100 full-time equivalents.
“In 2022, it will start again. We should achieve a turnover of 13 million by the end of the year and reach 15 million … thanks to our diversity in the medical field, in hydrogen storage and if we can solve the supply problems, the impact of products made in China and Russia and recruitment problems. This is why we responded to the call for Aero plan projects and why we are involved in the Farmmotion project ”, Marc Moret, CEO of the Loiretech group, argues that the Canadian subsidiary (50% owned), initially positioned in aeronautics, has completely converted to making molded parts for electric vehicles from to Quebec company Lion, supplier of Amazon and the production of hull and deck for snowmobiles and water vehicles (jet skis) for the company Taïga Motors.
A technology to adapt to large sizes
In France, in Bouguenais (44), where the two actors of the project must meet soon in a certain legal structure, it is in the 4.0 factory built in 2018 at 8000 m² by Loiretech that the manufacture first prototypes of Flettner rotors by 2023. Technically, the technology known for nearly a century shouldn’t “cause any particular problems” for aeronautics specialists already accustomed to designing and managing large components.
Thought by Finnish engineer Sigurd Savonius, the technology showed its relevance during Anton Flettner’s Atlantic crossing in 1926. Commander Cousteau made famous for arming his experimental ship Alcyone, these rotors, used to optimize the energy efficiency of ships and reduce their consumption of fossil fuels were developed by several companies, including Finnish Norsepower, which produces the range of 18 to 35 meters.
In the Farwind project, the dimensions of the rotors make it necessary to examine the architecture and the construction principles in order to adapt them to the material. According to the director of Farwind Energy, it will initially be necessary to be able to produce forty rotors to equip a fleet of ten ships. And in the second step to double this production to equip the commercial vessel propulsion assistance market between 2025 and 2030. “It will inevitably spur investments and co-investment”, recognizes Marc Moret, “and why not build a nearby factory if the market is flying”. Studies on design, methods of industrialization and financial spending are conducted. Farwind Energy wants to start mass production in 2024-2025.
“Set to do something big”
Growing from three to seventeen people in two years, the startup is working on four of its bricks at once. Beyond the scheme, the challenge is to find investors who believe in the project and finance the construction of ships estimated at 20 million euros per unit.
“This is a huge ambition, acknowledges the confident Arnaud Poitou, because the ships are intended to sail in fleets of five or ten units. Our goal is to produce ten ships and forty rotors per year by 2030. The The concept is that we are doomed to do and succeed in something great.
The economic model is based on the multiplication of project companies bringing together investors. Some were to fund the building of ships, others to operate them. “The goal is to have the first ship for the end of 2024 starting by 2025”, indicates Arnaud Poitou, who will soon establish the details of the ships. The first site consultations could be launched next fall. On one request, that it was a French shipyard.