Japan goes deeper for new electricity source


Test unit retrieved after three years 50 meters underwater

Renewable energy potential is not distributed evenly. Japan, for example, has sub-par solar potential and nowhere near the wind potential of Western Europe or the United States. It’s also currently ranked fifth in the world for electricity consumption, and adding nuclear power will be politically difficult in the wake of Fukushima, meaning that its race to zero emissions will require more innovation than most if it wishes to maintain energy independence.

Tidal flow generators – like the 2-MW Orbital O2 currently exporting power to the grid off Scotland’s Orkney islands – might offer reliable base load generation, but Japan sees so much shipping traffic through areas with suitable tidal potential that the idea’s unlikely to work.

So instead, Japanese company IHI and the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation (NEDO) have been experimenting with another reliable source of energy that could potentially deliver exceptionally reliable energy if tapped: ocean currents.

…There’s potential there to hook up vast arrays of ocean current turbines, sharing transmission lines, and siphon off a portion of an energy source IHI estimates at around 205 gigawatts. IHI and NEDO have been working on this opportunity since 2011, and since 2017, the companies have had a small-scale 100-kilowatt tidal generator in testing.

And everything appears to be working as hoped for. RTFA for the happy details.

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