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Violent Storms as Energy Source? Typhoon Turbine Could Power Japan for 50 Years

Sep 29, 2016 04:48 AM EDT
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A revolutionary green energy source Japan is powered by typhoons.

Japanese engineer Atsushi Shimizu has created the world's first typhoon wind turbine, an instrument shaped like an egg beater designed to withstand the strongest tropical cyclone while harnessing its immense force.

According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML), a mature typhoon (or hurricane) is capable of producing wind energy equivalent to about half the electrical generating capacity of the whole world. Shimizu thought that while typhoons are destructive forces of nature, they might also be able to provide renewable energy to Japan. In fact, Shimizu said that one typhoon alone could provide big amounts of energy to power all of Japan for 50 years, CNN reports.

Shimizu founded the green tech firm named Challenergy in 2013 and won funding to create a wind turbine that is "unbreakable by a typhoon." The device is based on the functionalities of the conventional wind turbines but is built with omnidirectional vertical axis designed to withstand unpredictable wind patterns of tropical cyclones.

The Challenergy team also incorporated the Magnus effect, which is the sideways force on a spinning object that pushes it in a direction perpendicular to the direction of the movement. This effect exerts control over the turbine blades. The engineers could tighten the center rod to adjust the speed of the blades and ensure that they will not spin out of control during a storm.

The device was tested in a simulated typhoon in July 2015 and was able to achieve 30% efficiency. This could be a good start as propeller-based turbines usually have 40% efficiency and they do not work in a typhoon.

"[In terms of] energy, Japan actually has a lot more wind power than it does solar power," Shimizu told CNN. "It's just not utilized."

The first prototype has been installed in Okinawa and the next step would involve testing the device's efficiency in a real-life typhoon.

"Our generation reaped the benefit of nuclear power--we never experience a power black out because of it," Shimizu said. "Now we are responsible for changing the future."

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