The oceans of our planet are priceless. They are home to valuable ecosystems, cool the planet and are beautiful to look at. Their waters also contain largely untapped energy reserves. The energy of mighty tides and moving water is difficult to harness, as man-made machines struggle to resist the power of time and water. However, the Japanese company IHI Corporation has been developing underwater turbine technology for years; and in 2017 they partnered with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) to test an ingenious turbine named Kairyu.
Kairyu roughly translates to “ocean current” in Japanese. The machine is made up of three 66-foot-long connected cylinders of electrical generators with attached turbine blades like those of windmills. Made of pressure-resistant steel, the machine must withstand rough waters. It is designed to float, tethered, approximately 164 feet below the surface. As surface currents spin the blades, they spin in opposite directions, stabilizing the attached turbine. It can also maneuver to capture the strongest current.
The current created by the swirling waters of the North Pacific Gyre is funneled into the strong Kuroshio Current near the coast of Japan. As an island nation with mountains, Japan has abundant coastal waters, but less space to install solar panels and wind turbines on land. After a three-and-a-half-year test in the ocean, Kairyu can produce 100 kilowatts of electricity. This is significantly lower than the 3.6 megawatts of an average offshore wind turbine. However, the researchers believe they could create a larger model that produces 2 megawatts.
The Kuroshio Current could produce about 205 gigawatts of power, potentially exceeding Japan’s current power output. Eventually, ocean turbine farms may soon be lurking beneath the surface of our oceans. As science rises to the challenges of building resilient technologies, harnessing the power of ocean waves may become a critical source of renewable, nearly inexhaustible energy. Substituting clean energy for dirty fossil fuels is essential for the future of the planet, and the oceans are part of that mission in many ways.
A huge turbine sunk off the coast of Japan generates electricity using the renewable forces of the tides.
While the machine, named Kairyu, is only producing power on a small scale for now, it could be an ingenious and inexhaustible source of clean energy in the future.
h/t: [Science Alert, Designboom]
25 eco-friendly products to reduce waste in style
Engineers develop an enzyme capable of breaking down plastic in hours
Researchers have developed a solar panel that continues to collect energy after the sun goes down
Daily wind power overtook coal and nuclear power for the first time