Harnessing Storms Could Power Our Cities For Years

Could harvesting the destructive force of a storm power our grid?

From a localised thunderstorm to a tornado to an almighty typhoon, storms are swirling cells that unleash on us wind, lightning and rainfall.

Author Tristan Rayner, 10.05.17

Translation Tristan Rayner:

From a localised thunderstorm to a tornado to an almighty typhoon, storms are swirling cells that unleash on us wind, lightning and rainfall.

With every storm comes a huge release of energy that we could potentially harness, but the very nature of the forces makes this a challenge for renewable energy generation. Traditional three-blade wind turbines, for example, are actually shut down during storms to protect their giant blades and turbines, and are rated only up to a certain wind speed.

But we might soon be able to harness those pounding storm winds, thanks to a Japanese invention.

Designed to withstand the 20-30 typhoons that crash into Japan’s many islands each year, the ‘Typhoon Turbine’, an eggbeater-styled wind turbine, has been built to capture wind energy from a storm.

Typhoons, cyclones or hurricanes can hold up to half the world’s annual energy generation inside them.

Japanese engineer Atsushi Shimizu, who designed the Typhoon Turbine with his company Challenergy, says just one typhoon could power Japan for 50 years. 

“If the turbine can keep producing power when a typhoon hits, that means it can work anywhere,” said Shimizu.

That means a big storm, such as the recent hurricanes devastating Central and North America, may be able to be harnessed, along with winter storms that sweep through Europe, and cyclones in the southern hemisphere.

The Typhoon Turbine

The Typhoon Turbine itself spins on its omnidirectional axis, generating power. The rotation and speed of the turning blades can be limited to prevent them spinning out of control, allowing the turbine to survive in strong, unpredictable and gusting winds.

The key to the device spinning is the same force that football players use to curve a ball when kicking. The Magnus Effect is the sideways force that causes a spinning object on a straight path to deviate away. It’s not easy to see over a short distance but this video shows the effect over a long distance:

Recent tests of an early Typhoon Turbine prototype yielded just under 30 per cent efficiency – too low for everyday use when compared with traditional turbines which are closer to 40 per cent efficiency.

But during a storm, the Typhoon Turbine comes into its own, surviving the direct hits yielding huge amounts of energy for short periods.

Challenges

The challenge for the Typhoon Turbine, generating large amounts of power in short bursts, is how best to store it. Scientists and engineers will need to utilise the instantaneous surge of power across long periods.

Large-scale battery banks, pumping water into dams for hydropower, and even sea storage are all viable energy storage options, each with their own challenges.

In August 2016, the first seven metre high prototype of the Typhoon Turbine device was installed on the southern island of Okinawa in Japan. It survived winds that would usually shut down a three-blade turbine. 

Further tests will be undertaken in a wind-swept area of Hokkaido, where large batteries have already been installed.

TAGGED WITH
Renewable Energy – Environmentally Friendly and Low Cost Energy from Inexhaustible Sources

Energy resources exist in different forms - some exist as stocks and are exhaustible, others exist as flows and are inexhaustible. The effects of climate change, and the impact that greenhouse gas emissions have on the atmosphere, are ushering in a reassessment of where our energy supply comes from and, more importantly, how sustainable it is.

Trine’s Crowd Investing in Solar Projects Helps Tackle Global Energy Poverty

Crowd investing platform Trine lets people invest small amounts of money in solar energy systems for off-grid communities. Successful projects mean a return on your investment, and people around the world gaining access to clean electricity.

Vehicle-to-Grid: Using Electric Cars To Store Renewable Energy

Electric cars that aren't currently on the move could be used to help stabilise energy grids, make electricity from renewable energy sources more viable and generate extra income for EV owners. That's the goal of the Munich-based company The Mobility House and their smart Vehicle-to-Grid technology.

The German Town Planning to Store Clean Energy in a Disused Coal Mine

What do coal mines and renewable energy have in common? More than you think, if you fill a disused coal mine with water to store energy from a renewable source - as one German mining town is planning to do.

Any Way The Wind Blows…

Wind is one of the cleanest sources of energy, with no toxic by-products generation. The abundance of wind in some places should make it a top power source choice, yet initial set-up costs, and the ongoing maintenance of complex equipment, often mean that wind is still not as an accessible and affordable energy source as it could be.

DIY Wind Turbines Bring Clean Energy to Vietnamese Villages

What do you need to build a wind turbine? Bits of an old printer, plastic buckets or bowls - and wind of course. Armed with enough innovation to impress even MacGyver, a professor in Vietnam has come up with an idea that has changed the lives of an entire village.