Japan Is Dropping a Gargantuan Turbine Into The Ocean to Harness ‘Limitless’ Energy


This is fantastic.  It shows again that we do not need fossil fuels.   We need to go to a sustainable reginal power generating system.   Hugs
10 JUNE 2022

Deep beneath the waves there’s a source of power quite unlike any other. To tap into it, Japanese engineers have constructed a true leviathan, a beast capable of withstanding the strongest of ocean currents to transform its flow into a virtually limitless supply of electricity.

Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries – now known simply as IHI Corporation – has been tinkering with the technology for over a decade now, partnering with New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) in 2017 to put their designs to the test.

In February, the project passed a major milestone with the completion of a successful three-and-a-half year field test in the waters off Japan’s southwestern coast.

The 330-ton prototype is called Kairyu, a word that translates more or less into ‘ocean current’. Its structure consists of a 20 meter (66 foot) long fuselage flanked by a pair of similar-sized cylinders, each housing a power generation system attached to an 11 meter long turbine blade.

Kairyu Diagram(IHI Corp./NEDO)

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

Japan is a country heavily reliant on importing fossil fuels to generate a significant amount of its power. With public sentiment towards nuclear power souring in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is motivated to use its technological prowess to take advantage of renewable energy sources.

Unfortunately, the mountainous Japanese archipelago provides little scope for vast forests of wind turbines or fields of solar panels. With a location far from neighboring countries, there’s also less opportunity to balance the fluctuations in renewables through energy trade.

One thing the nation does have is vast stretches of coastal water. To the east, the ocean swirls under the might of the North Pacific gyre.

Where the gyre meets Japan, it’s channeled into a relatively strong flow called the Kuroshio current.

IHI estimates that if the energy present in the current could be harnessed, it could feasibly generate around 205 gigawatts of electricity, an amount it claims is in the same ballpark as the country’s current power generation.

That enormous amount of potential in the ocean’s tumultuous movements is also what makes it so hard to use as a power source. The fastest-flowing waters are near the surface, which also happens to be where typhoons can easily destroy power stations.

Kairyu was designed to hover roughly 50 meters below the waves – as it floats towards the surface, the drag created provides the necessary torque on the turbines. Each of the blades rotates in an opposing direction as well, keeping the device relatively stable.

In a flow of two to four knots (around one to two meters per second), Kairyu was found to be capable of churning out a total of 100 kilowatts of power.

Compared with an average offshore wind turbine’s 3.6 megawatts, it might seem like small sparks. But with demonstrated success at withstanding what nature can throw at it, Kairyu could soon have a monster sibling swinging 20-meter-long turbines to generate a more respectable 2 megawatts.

If all goes to plan, we might see a farm of power generators feeding electricity into the grid some time next decade. Whether Kairyu can indeed scale up is left to be seen.

In spite of huge interest in this relatively under-utilized reserve of renewable energy, attempts to wring watts out of the tides, waves, and currents of the open ocean typically end in failure. High engineering costs, environmental limitations, proximity of coastal areas to the grid … all manner of challenges need to be overcome to see projects like this through.

If IHI Corp. can overcome them, there are kaiju-sized benefits to reap, with ocean power potentially providing anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of Japan’s energy needs.

With advances in materials science and a better understanding of the marine environment, somebody is bound to overcome the litany of problems to harness the ocean’s vast supply of energy.

2 thoughts on “Japan Is Dropping a Gargantuan Turbine Into The Ocean to Harness ‘Limitless’ Energy

  1. Scottie, thanks for sharing this. I am glad to see this kind of innovation. Scotland has also been a forerunner in tidal energy with the windy North Sea. These examples need to be broadcast to all to show the way. What is great about renewable energy is it can take many forms – onshore wind, offshore wind, solar, hydro, tidal, etc. And, they need not be huge projects to make a difference. Thanks again, Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hello Keith. I agree. Way back in my high school days I was part of a debate team, and the subject was nation energy plans. We argued for a regional reusable energy plan using what each region had available to it. Where one had an abundance, they could share with the others. The different things were geothermal, wind, wave energy, solar, other things I cannot remember. Way back in 1979. Wow, and here it is 2022 and the world is finally taking the idea seriously. It can be done; it must be done. Hugs


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.