Waving goodbye to coastal erosion in Japan

Posted 25/07/2019 by E.ON

We've come a long way in the past few decades with renewable energy now playing a big role in power generation all over the world. Here in the UK, 2019 is predicted to be the first year where more electricity will come from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.

While this is great news, climate change is already in progress and causing sea levels to rise meaning our coastlines and coastal communities face additional threats from increasing temperatures. Statistics show that in 2014, the global sea level was 2.6 inches above the 1993 average and that it's going up about one-eighth of an inch each year.

That's why a new invention from Japan is an exciting new development in the energy world. Researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology have created a unique wave turbine, which both captures breaking wave power and helps protect the shoreline from erosion.



Inspired by nature

The project is led by Professor Tsumoru Shintake and his team are now running a test of the technology in the Maldives, an island nation facing many issues from rising sea levels, as it's the flattest country on earth.

Predictions show that if sea levels continue to rise at the same rate, then the islands that make up the Maldives could be completely underwater by the end of this century. The Maldives is also in great need of new sustainable energy sources as its geographical layout of low-lying atolls means it has no central generation source. Currently each island makes its own power, primarily through fossil fuels. But Professor Shintake's invention could make a big difference. The wave turbine uses biomimicry principles. Biomimicry is the invention of technologies that imitate how things work in nature. The blade design and materials are inspired by dolphin fins and the flexible posts resemble flower stems.

The test started with two of the small turbines installed just off-shore where they can capture the most energy from the breaking waves. They also work as a buffer, so that the waves have less impact when they hit the shoreline. Close proximity to shore also means that they are easy to access for repairs and the power they are generating doesn't have to be transported far.

Over the next two years, more machines will be installed with the ultimate aim of up to one-third of the island's power coming from the waves. Professor Shintake continues to develop the concept, hoping to make larger and larger versions that can be installed in different types of seas all around the world.

This is just one of many ways in which innovations in energy are helping to drive a sustainable future. We've recently announced we're providing all E.ON customers' homes with electricity backed by 100% renewable sources including wind, biomass and solar.

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