New research has proposed a design for a submerged marine turbine that could harness ocean currents as a potential renewable energy resource.
Researchers from the Quantum Wave Microscopy Unit at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have published their proposition in the journal Renewable Energy. The researchers specifically proposed a submerged marine turbine that could harness the energy of the Kuroshio Current, a north-flowing ocean current on the west side of the North Pacific Ocean, up against Japan’s own east coast. The Kuroshio Current is similar to the more well-known Gulf Stream current that runs around the top side of the Atlantic Ocean, and could provide consistent electricity much like fossil fuels have done.
The newly proposed design could see a submerged marine turbine operate in the middle layer of the Kuroshio Current, 100 metres below the surface, where the waters of the current flow steadily and relatively calmly, even during the violent storms and typhoons that make their home in the region.
OIST-1The design itself is more a hybrid of a kite and a wind turbine, and comprises a float, a counterweight, a nacelle to house the electricity generating components, and three blades. The turbine would be anchored to the seabed, while its position in the current would turn the blades, generating near-constant electricity. As the researchers note, though ocean currents are relatively slow — averaging only 1-1.5 m/s — water is over 800 times more dense than air, meaning that even slow ocean currents are comparable to strong winds — and with the added benefit of being constant in both direction and speed.