Japan develops tidal energy as part of US$501 million project

Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) has selected IHI Corp. and Toshiba Corp. to research and develop an underwater floating-type ocean current tidal energy turbine system as part of a US$501 million effort for sustainable, renewable energy.

The specific location for the system and its generating capacity are not immediately known.

The system includes power generation devices that each have two counter-rotating turbines. Each unit is anchored to the sea floor and floats like a kite carried and driven by the ocean current, according to Toshiba.

IHI is a heavy equipment manufacturer that produces a multitude of products including marine propellers. Toshiba is a widely-recognized electronics manufacturer.

“IHI is the lead company in the project and will manufacture the turbine and floating body,” said Toshiba and IHI in a joint press release. “Toshiba will supply electric devices, such as the generator and transformer.”

The project is the latest step in a NEDO-funded project begun in 2011 that involves Toshiba and IHI, with the University of Tokyo and Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute, in ocean energy research. An exact completion date for deployment of the system has not been announced, but the project is expected to continue until 2017.

The research work is expected to prove the viability of ocean energy power generation and to create the framework for an industry, and also to contribute to improved energy security for Japan, according to Toshiba.

Ocean currents, such as the Kuroshio Current, are a natural energy resource with little fluctuation in flow regardless of time or season. In Japan, an island nation, success in converting the massive power of the ocean current will create a large-scale, stable power source.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry determines policy for and funds NEDO. NEDO is responsible for promoting energy research and development, environmental and industrial technologies and acquiring emission reduction credits through the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms.

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Gregory B. Poindexter formerly was an associate editor for HydroWorld.com.

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