Ocean energy is the new promise of renewables. And Japan is already testing a gigantic turbine

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As the effects of climate change become increasingly evident in our lives and we suffer its consequences, part of us humans try to do everything possible to limit the advance of this phenomenon. One of the keys to achieving this is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, an objective to which we can contribute by leaving behind fossil fuels and committing to clean and renewable energy sources.

Along this path, although far from being sufficient, a huge number of proposals are emerging, many of which have materialized promising projects. We no longer only set up wind farms on land, we also do it in the sea, even 140 kilometers from the coast. And, as if that were not enough, there are those who are also betting on floating solar energy and those who seek to make synthetic fuel with wind, water and air. The next step, according to Japan, is in the ocean energy.

Although solar energy and wind energy are two of the most used clean and renewable energy sources today, they have some important limitations, among them, that they are not effective throughout the world (in Spain everything seems to indicate that they are). and they are not constant. This is because depend on the sun and the wind respectively, and these do not occur with the same intensity at all times of the day.

In the absence of wind, take advantage of the sea

The Japanese, due to the characteristics of their geographical location, have already dismissed some renewable energy sources, which has led them to bet heavily on others. As they do not have the prevailing westerly winds that blow at higher latitudes in Europe they have left aside wind energybut they have made a strong commitment to solar, becoming one of the world’s largest producers.

Now, they go one step further. They want to harness the Kuroshio Currents, one of the strongest in the world, to reliably and consistently generate electricity. According to BloombergJapan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) says this current, which runs along the west coast, could reach up to 60% of the country’s current production capacity. So… Energy problem solved? Not so fast.

To take advantage of this enormous source of constant, clean and renewable energy, it is necessary to have the appropriate technology. In this regard, the Japanese have invested a lot of time. IHI Corp has been developing for over a decade a underwater turbine that takes advantage of sea currents deep and converts them into electricity.

According to the company, the project’s prototype, called Kairyu, resembles an airplane. It is 20 meters wide and 20 meters long. It weighs 330 tons and is designed to work anchored to the sea floor at a depth of between 30 and 50 metres. The central body houses a buoyancy system, while each of its “wings” incorporates a huge turbine.

Ocean Turbine 2

In February, IHI Corp tested its system for seven days in the sea around the Tokara Islands in southwestern Japan. They immobilized Kairyu with a 280-ton anchor and left her exposed to Kuroshio’s currents, generating up to 30 kW of electrical power. “We amassed a wealth of valuable data and insights for future commercialization,” says the company.

IHI Corp’s business plans call for several such systems to be installed along Japan’s east coast. However, before that happens you will have to overcome many other challenges. For now, assemble the turbine system it’s a feat of engineering, so they must find new methods to do it. In addition, they must ensure that the components are robust enough to operate for a long time without breaking down.

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IHI Corp is confident that it will overcome these difficulties over time. The next step is to test a 2 megawatt system and prepare for the start of commercial operations. in the 2030s or later. Will this proposal succeed? We don’t know yet, but we do know that it is not the only alternative that the Japanese are considering, they are also testing boats with batteries and wind turbines on the high seas.

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As the effects of climate change become increasingly evident in our lives and we suffer its consequences, part of us…

As the effects of climate change become increasingly evident in our lives and we suffer its consequences, part of us…

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