Japan launches giant turbine into the ocean to generate ‘limitless’ energy

(ORDO NEWS) — Deep underwater, there is a source of energy quite unlike any other. To use it, Japanese engineers built a real monster that can withstand the strongest ocean currents in order to turn its flow into an almost limitless supply of electricity.

Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries – now simply known as IHI Corporation – has been developing this technology for over a decade, collaborating with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) in 2017 to validate their projects.

In February, the project passed a major milestone with the completion of a successful three and a half year field trial in the waters off the southwest coast of Japan.

The 330-ton prototype is called Kairyu (Kairyu, “ocean current”). Its structure consists of a 20 meters (66 ft) long fuselage surrounded by a pair of equally sized cylinders, each containing a power generation system attached to an 11 meters long turbine blade.

When the device is tethered to the ocean floor with an anchor line and power cables, it can orient itself to find the most efficient position to generate power from the push of the deep current and channel it into the power grid.

Japan is a country heavily dependent on imported fossil fuels to generate a significant amount of its energy. With public sentiment towards nuclear power deteriorating since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is motivated to use its technological prowess to take advantage of renewable energy.

Unfortunately, the mountainous Japanese archipelago provides few opportunities to install huge numbers of wind turbines or fields of solar panels.

It turns out that the only possibility is the use of vast areas of coastal water. In the east, the ocean rotates under the power of the North Pacific Gyre.

Where the gyre meets Japan, it flows into a relatively strong current called the Kuroshio Current.

Experts estimate that if the energy present in this current could be used, then it could generate about 205 gigawatts of electricity, an amount she claims is at the same level as the country’s current electricity generation.

Kairyu was designed to swim about 50 meters below the waves. As it floats towards the surface, the resistance created provides the necessary torque to the turbines. Each of the blades rotates in the opposite direction, keeping the device relatively stable.

In a flow of two to four knots (1-2 meters per second), Kairyu was found to be capable of generating a total of 100 kilowatts of power.

Compared to an average 3.6 megawatt offshore wind turbine, this may not sound like much. But scientists will soon create a monster that swings 20-meter turbines to generate 2 megawatts. And if all goes according to plan, then in the next decade we may see a farm of generators supplying electricity to the grid.

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