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Wave-catching power-generating turbines developed in Japan

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Researchers from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) are aiming to solve two problems with their new wave turbines- the protection of shorelines from heavy wave erosion, and the generation of clean energy.
The new wave turbines have the potential to generate renewable energy and also protect coastlines from heavy wave erosion.
(Image via OIST).

Professor Tsumoru Shintake, one of the team of scientists behind the project, explains the inspiration for the project:

“Particularly in Japan, if you go around the beach you’ll find many tetrapods [tetrapods are concrete structures shaped somewhat like pyramids that are often placed along a coastline to weaken the force of incoming waves] surprisingly, 30% of the seashore in mainland Japan is covered with tetrapods and wave breakers.” Replacing these with “intelligent” tetrapods and wave breakers- in other words, the new ‘wave turbines’- will both generate energy and protect the shore from erosion.

If rolled out at scale, the team behind the project are confident that the wave turbines could make a big contribution towards Japan’s energy mix.

“Using just 1% of the seashore of mainland Japan could generate about 10 gigawatts of energy, which is equivalent to 10 nuclear power plants,” Professor Shintake says.
The wave turbines are designed to withstand extreme weather including typhoons
(Image via OIST).

The turbines themselves are built to withstand the forces thrust upon them during harsh wave conditions as well as extreme weather, such as a typhoon. The blade design and materials are inspired by dolphin fins—they are flexible, and thus able to release stress rather than remain rigid and risk breakage. The supporting structure is also flexible, “like a flower,” Professor Shintake explains. “The stem of a flower bends back against the wind,” and so, too, do the turbines bend along their anchoring axes. They are also built to be safe for surrounding marine life—the blades rotate at a carefully calculated speed that allows creatures caught among them to escape.

If further commercial trials prove to be a success, then expect to see this new renewable energy technology eagerly adopted by the energy hungry economy of Japan.

Find out how Fircroft can help your renewable energy business secure the best engineering talent by speaking to us today.
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Wave-catching power-generating turbines developed in Japan - Time to read 2 min
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