Inside Japan's plan to take 'limitless energy' from the sea with strange giant tube | The Sun

A JAPANESE technology company has engineered an underwater machine capable of harnessing enough energy to power most of the country.

Japan is striving to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 – ocean current power generation could play a role in achieving that goal.

Japan's narrow and mountainous landscape dampens the effectiveness of most forms of alternative energy such as wind turbine farms and solar panels.

The country is geographically isolated and consists of almost 7,000 islands and its power grid is spread thin and poorly interconnected.

Ocean current power generation – the practice of using the currents in the water to rotate a turbine – represents a green solution that could take advantage of Japan's massive coastal territory.

A three-and-a-half-year field test of an ocean turbine prototype called "Kairyu" is thought to be a proof of concept for the renewable energy system.

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Kairyu is tethered to an anchor resting on the ocean floor – the machine is able to orient itself in three dimensions for optimal energy collection.

“The floating generator anchored to the bottom of the sea takes advantage of the balance between its buoyancy and the drag caused by the ocean current, thereby generating electric power while floating at any desired depth,” a report from the IHI Corporation said.

Kairyu has a cable affixed to it that runs along the seafloor to a power grid.

Science Alert reported that an individual Kairyu machine's output is dwarfed by an off-shore wind turbine – IHI says they plan to scale up Kairyu's rotor blades from 11 to 40 meters and cultivate a farm of underwater turbines.

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IHI says Kairyu has tested in the Kuroshio current, a particularly strong ocean current.

They found the current holds enough energy to generate 205 gigawatts, which is on par with Japan's current total electric power generation.

Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet but has a high rate of carbon emissions per capita and uses 2.5% of the world's coal supply.

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Collective post-traumatic stress from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown has put less explored, more creative options like ocean turbines on the table.

Japanese administrators are going all-in on renewables – the next benchmark in the long-term plan is to use renewables for 24% of the country's electricity by 2030.

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