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Come rain, wind or shine, Japan’s electric current will flow

World

Come rain, wind or shine, Japan’s electric current will flow

Nation tests methods to harness energy in deep ocean currents, a more stable alternative to solar and wind power

Erica Yokoyama

Power-hungry, fossil-fuel dependent Japan has successfully tested a system that could provide a constant, steady form of renewable energy, regardless of the wind or the sun. 

For more than a decade, Japanese heavy machinery maker IHI has been developing a subsea turbine that harnesses the energy in deep ocean currents and converts it into a steady and reliable source of electricity. The giant machine resembles an aeroplane, with two counter-rotating turbine fans in place of jets, and a central “fuselage” housing a buoyancy adjustment system. Called Kairyu, the 330-ton prototype is designed to be anchored to the sea floor at a depth of 30-50m.

In commercial production, the plan is to site the turbines in the Kuroshio Current, one of the world’s strongest, which runs along Japan’s eastern coast, and transmit the power via seabed cables...

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