Could currents that circulate around the globe in thousand-year cycles be a source of endless sustainable energy?
Scientists call it the “global conveyor belt”, a system of connected deep currents that move water around the globe over a thousand-year cycle. These currents are critical to the climate as they circulate different temperature and salinity around the globe. They are measured in thousand-year cycles and for this reason can be very well predicted. What you may not know is that these currents are beginning to be used for sustainable energy, and the outlook is exciting.
One country that is already seeing them as a major opportunity for sustainable power is Japan. This is largely due to its proximity to vast stretches of water as an island, but also because it can't as strongly rely on westerly prevailing winds as much as continents like Europe. They have been developing underwater turbines for a decade now and are close to installing their first working model - the 330 ton Kairyu - designed to be anchored to the sea floor at a depth of 100-160 feet.
There are five main currents worldwide: the North and South Pacific Subtropical; the North and South Atlantic Subtropical; and the Indian Ocean Subtropical. This means that if the research and investment into sustainable energy in Japan goes well, it could soon be replicated across the globe!
On a lighter note, we all know just how powerful water can be, see exhibit A(!):
So could this be a turning point in sustainable energy?
Well the initial signs are very hopeful. According to Bloomberg:
"The tests proved the prototype could generate the expected 100 kilowatts of stable power and the company now plans to scale up to a full 2 megawatt system that could be in commercial operation in the 2030s or later."
The company behind the technology may have a commercial alternative to nuclear and fossil fuels by as early as the 2030s, great news for the environment.