For many years, Japan thought that its energy needs moving into the future would be provided by nuclear power plants. When a typhoon hit in 2013 and led to the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant plans had to change. The problem for Japan is that normal wind turbines can’t withstand the forces of typhoon-class winds and the country has been hit with six typhoons in 2016. Normal wind turbines that we see in the US and Europe with propellers similar to aircraft can’t survive the high winds of a typhoon, but the new design from Challenergy can.

Atsushi Shimizu, the founder of Challenergy, says that his wind turbine can’t be broken by typhoon winds. The design of this unbreakable wind turbine involves two fundamental changes compared to traditional wind turbines. The first change is that the turbines have an omnidirectional vertical axis able to withstand unpredictable wind patterns.

The design also incorporates something called the Magnus effect. This effect is a sideways force that causes a spinning object to deviate from another wise straight path. This Magnus effect allows the turbine to have a huge increase in the level of control over the turbine blades. This ensures that the blades don’t spin out of control during a storm.

Simulations have shown that the Challenergy turbines have 30% efficiency, which is significantly less than the 40% efficiency found with normal wind turbines. The major difference is that the Challenergy turbines can operate in a typhoon. A prototype is installed in Okinawa now and the team is waiting for a typhoon to test the turbine.

“I want to install our wind-power generator at the new National Stadium,” Shimizu says, of the facility being built for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. “Or on the Tokyo Tower, because the Eiffel Tower installed a wind-power generator last year at the time of the COP21 (climate summit).”

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