Wave Power Renewable Energy Project Underway In Japan
Being a nation of islands, Japan is keenly attuned to the problem of erosion. Nearly 30% of its coastline is protected from the ravages of the sea by tetrapods, man-made pyramids that help reduce the power of waves before they reach the shore. Professor Shintake and his team would like to redesign those wave-breaking devices to incorporate small turbines that generate electricity from the power of the flowing water.
“Using just 1% of the seashore of mainland Japan can [generate] about 10 gigawatts [of energy], which is equivalent to 10 nuclear power plants,” Professor Shintake explains. “That’s huge.” It is especially huge in Japan, where nuclear power has a somewhat mixed track record.
Previously, Shintake has spearheaded a project labeled Sea Horse that places turbines tethered to the ocean floor in the middle of ocean currents, but maintaining the equipment is difficult and the cables carrying electricity to shore are problematic. He says his wave power process would be cheaper to install and maintain.
The turbines are designed to withstand the tremendous force that ocean waves can create. Inspired by dolphin fins, the blades that turn the turbines are flexible so they can relieve excess stress. Rigid blades would simply break under the power created by typhoons and the like.