According to a report in ENN (Environmental News Network), Nippon Yusen KK, has teamed with Nippon Oil Corporation in developing the solar panels for use on a 60,000-ton cargo ship for Toyota Motor Corporation.
Unlike the solar panels soon to be offered on the tops of the Toyota Priusthat, these panels are designed to assist with the ship's motive power.
Solar panels aren't new on ocean-going ships, but until now they've only been used to power crew cabins and living quarters.
This system will help reduce diesel fuel consumption by up to 6.5 per cent and CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by 1 or 2 per cent.
The average cargo ship gets about .008 miles per gallon. At that rate, the ship is burning about 120 gallons of bunker fuel per mile.
That means the ship will burn at least 720,000 gallons across the ocean from Japan to the United States. With the new solar power system in place, the ship will burn about 46800 gallons less per voyage.
That's nearly the amount that was spilled into San Francisco bay last year when the pilot drove the Cosco Busan in the Bay Bridge. Thus, the system saves one whole environmental disaster's worth of fuel.
Research from Environmental Science and Technology shows that emissions from shipping are a contributing factor for up to 60,000 deaths worldwide each year.
44 per cent of the sulphate in fine particulate matter along coastal cities comes from ship exhaust.
In response to those statistics, California regulators approved the nation's strictest regulations for reducing emissions from ocean-going ships.
Starting in July of 2009, ships coming into California ports will be required to switch to a cleaner burning fuel within 24 miles of shore. These regulations are similar to international rules set to take effect in 2015.
Now, Nippon is investing 1.4 million dollars to develop its solar system. The first ship outfitted with solar panels is scheduled for completion in December.
According to Nippon Oil Executive Vice President, full commercialization of the system will happen within three to five years.