Ever since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster back in 2011, Japan is becoming increasingly dependent on other countries to meet its energy requirements. As a solution for the nation’s growing green energy problem, engineer Atsushi Shimizu has designed the world’s very first wind turbine that harnesses usable power from typhoons. Shaped like an egg beater, this massive contraption could produce enough energy from a single typhoon to power the entire country for 50 years.
Prior to what is now believed to be one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, the Japanese government was gearing up to derive over 60-percent of its total power from nuclear sources by the year 2100. The earthquake and the subsequent tsunami not only killed more than 19,000 people, but also damaged the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, resulting in three horrific nuclear meltdowns.
At present, nearly 84-percent of the Japan’s energy comes from outside, especially since efforts to harvest wind power have met with failure. In 2013, for instance, Typhoon Usagi destroyed eight functioning turbines erected at the Honghaiwan wind farm. In recent years, the government has turned its attention to solar power, installing photovoltaic panels on buildings across the nation’s cities. Shimizu explained:
For decades, Japan has brought in European-style wind turbines, not designed for typhoon zones, and installed them with no careful consideration — they’ve broken almost entirely… But in terms of energy, Japan actually has a lot more wind power than it does solar power, it’s just not utilized. Japan has the potential to be a super power of wind.
This is especially true, given that Japan has witnessed as many as six typhoons in this year alone. Fueled by this aim, Shimizu started renewable energy firm Challenergy in 2013. The wind turbine designed by his team is capable of not only withstanding a violent storm, but is in fact equipped to harvest usable energy from it. As pointed out by the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory, the amount of kinetic energy generated during a typhoon is nearly equal to half of the world’s total electrical producing capacity.
The new contraption differs from conventional wind turbines in two, specific aspects: the former features an omnidirectional vertical axis that is specially built to withstand strong winds. Secondly, the design incorporates what is called the Magnus effect, which refers to the force exerted on a spinning object, like football, to swerve it from its straight path. This particular feature enhances the contraption’s stability, by allowing the engineers to alter the speed of the blades in order to prevent the turbine from spinning off during a typhoon.
During tests last year, the team managed to achieve approximately 30-percent efficiency. Although boasting a higher efficiency of around 40-percent, propeller-based wind turbines would likely not survive typhoons. With further development, the amount of energy gathered from a single typhoon could power the entire country for a total of 50 years. The first prototype has already been installed in Okinawa. Shimizu added:
I want to install our wind-power generator at the new National Stadium. Or on the Tokyo Tower, because the Eiffel Tower installed a wind-power generator last year at the time of the COP21 (climate summit). Our generation reaped the benefit of nuclear power — we never experience a power black out because of it. Now we are responsible for changing the future.
To know more about the contraption, head over to official website of Challenergy.