Typhoons are generally associated with mass destruction, but a Japanese engineer has developed a wind turbine that can harness the tremendous power of these storms and turn it into useful energy. If he’s right, a single typhoon could power Japan for 50 years.
Conceptual image of a typhoon turbine array. (Image: Challenergy)
Atsushi Shimizu is the inventor of the world’s first typhoon turbine — an extremely durable, eggbeater-shaped device that can not only withstand the awesome forces generated by a typhoon, it can convert all that power into useable energy. Shimizu’s calculations show that a sufficiently large array of his turbines could capture enough energy from a single typhoon to power Japan for 50 years.
Shimizu shows off a model of his typhoon turbine. (Image: Challenergy)
Given that Japan is currently dealing with an energy shortage — a problem incited by the 2011 Fukushima disaster — this comes as a very welcome solution. As Shimizu told CNN, “Japan actually has a lot more wind power than it does solar power, it’s just not utilised.”
The typhoon turbine differs from conventional turbines in two important ways. It works on an omnidirectional axis that allows the machine to survive unpredictable wind patterns, and the speed of the blades can be adjusted to ensure they don’t spin out of control during a storm.
Tests of a prototype yielded 30 per cent efficiency, which is 10 per cent lower than propeller-based turbines. The difference, of course, is that Shimizu’s turbines can actually survive a storm. Back in 2013, Typhoon Usagi destroyed eight conventional turbines, while damaging eight.
A functional prototype was installed near Okinawa earlier this winter, and the next big step is to test the device under high-wind conditions. All that’s needed now is a typhoon.
It’s not immediately clear where all the incoming energy will be channelled, whether it be sent straight to the grid or stored in large batteries (Tesla’s large battery backup comes to mind). We’ve contacted the company to learn more.