Japan has successfully tested a system that heavily depends on the deep ocean. This system could provide a reliable steady form of renewable energy, according to a report by Bloomberg published Tuesday. This project has been worked upon for more than 10 years now.
The invention comes from Japanese heavy machinery maker IHI Corp. The company has been developing a subsea turbine that harnesses the energy in deep ocean currents for over ten years.
The massive sea turbine is called Kairyu. It appears like a 330-ton airplane. It features two counter-rotating turbine fans that are connected by a massive fuselage, and it functions by floating while anchoring to the sea floor at a depth of 30-50 meters (100-160 feet).
IHI Corp. has ambitious plans to site the turbines in one of the world’s strongest currents (the Kuroshio Current) and transmit the power via seabed cables. Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) estimates that this current could potentially generate as much as 200 gigawatts of reliable energy.
This is the equivalent of 60% of Japan’s present generating capacity.
“Ocean currents have an advantage in terms of their accessibility in Japan,” Ken Takagi, a professor of ocean technology policy at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, told Bloomberg. “Wind power is more geographically suited to Europe, which is exposed to predominant westerly winds and is located at higher latitudes.”
Particularly after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, most of Japan’s investments so far have been in wind and solar.
The country is already the world’s third-largest generator of solar power and has made ambitious investments in offshore wind.
Ocean currents have a capacity factor of 50 to 70 percent, while onshore wind has 29 percent and solar has 15 percent.
However, it is not an easy task to set up machinery under water. This is because underwater systems must be tough enough to withstand the aggressive and hostile conditions of deep ocean currents.
“Unlike Europe, which has a long history of the North Sea Oil exploration, Japan has had little experience with offshore construction,” added Takagi.
“Japan isn’t blessed with a lot of alternative energy sources,” he said. “People may say that this is just a dream, but we need to try everything to achieve zero carbon.”