Massive Floating Generators To Provide Power & Food To Japan
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MASSIVE FLOATING GENERATORS, OR 'ECO-RIGS',
TO PROVIDE POWER AND FOOD TO JAPAN
By Leo Lewis
September 1, 2008
Battered by soaring energy costs and aghast at dwindling fish stocks,
Japanese scientists think they have found the answer: filling the seas with
giant ³eco-rigs² as powerful as nuclear power stations.
The project, which could result in village-sized platforms peppering the
Japanese coastline within a decade, reflects a growing panic in the country
over how it will meet its future resource needs.
The floating eco-rig generators which measure 1.2 miles by 0.5 miles (2km by
800m) are intended to harness the energy of the Sun and wind. They are each
expected to produce about 300 megawatt hours of power.
Some energy would be lost moving the electricity back onshore, but when
three units are strapped together, scientists at Kyushu University say, the
effect will be the same as a standard nuclear power station.
The eco-rigs' gift to the environment does not stop there: some of the power
that the solar cells and wind turbines produce will be hived off to fuel
colossal underwater banks of light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
The lamps are intended to convert the platforms into nurseries for specially
selected seaweed that absorbs carbon dioxide and feeds fish and plankton.
Deep-sea water that is rich in minerals will enhance the seaweed growth. The
wind turbines will power pumps that will then draw the water to the surface.
The rigs will be unmanned and comprise several hexagonal platforms.
Strapped between them will be large nets designed to support the weight of
wind turbines and about 200,000 hexagonal photovoltaic generators --
super-efficient solar panels that are about the size of a double bed. The
LEDs will shine down from the panels.
As a country with virtually no fossil fuels, price rises in oil and gas have
chilled the corporate sector and the Japanese Government.
Japan's faith in nuclear power has also taken a beating. An earthquake
caused its largest nuclear plant to shut down in 2007 and engineers and
seismic experts cautioned that the country's high susceptibility to quakes
placed the industry at risk.
The Kyushu team says the plans are about three years away from becoming
reality. It began tests on a scale version of the eco-rig last month, and
full-scale official evaluation is expected to begin soon.
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