• A Japanese start-up called Challenergy has designed a wind turbine that works during cyclones.
  • Cyclonic conditions typically shut down most wind installations.
  • Japan experiences on average 26 typhoons and tropical storms a year, meaning the new turbines could provide a reliable source of energy.
  • Renewables are the fastest growing source of electricity generation globally.

As governments and companies globally rush to install as much renewable energy capacity as possible to cut carbon emissions, areas often not suitable for solar arrays or wind farms are opening up for development with advances in technology.

In Japan, a start-up called Challenergy has designed a wind turbine that works in cyclonic conditions, which typically shut down most wind installations, turning them into a potential energy source.

While renewables in general are the fastest growing source of electricity generation globally, in Japan most new renewables capacity has been powered by the sun. Only in recent years has the government started trying to promote wind, especially offshore wind.

But with Japan experiencing on average 26 typhoons and tropical storms a year, and with meteorologists saying they are getting more frequent and more powerful with climate change, the path to development of wind power is generally viewed as tough.

"One of our goals is to turn typhoons into a strength," said Atsushi Shimizu, who founded Challenergy three years after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster sent him on a quest to find a sustainable source of energy.

"If we can just partially leverage the vast energy brought by typhoons, we can consider typhoons not just as disasters, but as a source of energy," he told Reuters during an online demonstration of the turbines.

Conventional wind turbines have giant propeller-like blades that are growing more vulnerable in cyclonic conditions as they get bigger with technological advances. Challenergy's "Magnus Vertical Axis Wind Turbine" has ditched pointed blades, with their giant sweeping revolutions, for upright square ones that spin on a horizontal axis to the direction of the wind, which helps to more directly capture its energy and makes the structure sturdier.

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Moving to clean energy is key to combating climate change, yet in the past five years, the energy transition has stagnated.

Energy consumption and production contribute to two-thirds of global emissions, and 81% of the global energy system is still based on fossil fuels, the same percentage as 30 years ago. Plus, improvements in the energy intensity of the global economy (the amount of energy used per unit of economic activity) are slowing. In 2018 energy intensity improved by 1.2%, the slowest rate since 2010.

Effective policies, private-sector action and public-private cooperation are needed to create a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure global energy system.

Benchmarking progress is essential to a successful transition. The World Economic Forum’s Energy Transition Index, which ranks 115 economies on how well they balance energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability, shows that the biggest challenge facing energy transition is the lack of readiness among the world’s largest emitters, including US, China, India and Russia. The 10 countries that score the highest in terms of readiness account for only 2.6% of global annual emissions.

To future-proof the global energy system, the Forum’s Shaping the Future of Energy and Materials Platform is working on initiatives including, Systemic Efficiency, Innovation and Clean Energy and the Global Battery Alliance to encourage and enable innovative energy investments, technologies and solutions.

Additionally, the Mission Possible Platform (MPP) is working to assemble public and private partners to further the industry transition to set heavy industry and mobility sectors on the pathway towards net-zero emissions. MPP is an initiative created by the World Economic Forum and the Energy Transitions Commission.

Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

In August, the company started a demonstration of a 10-kilowatt tower in Batanes, Philippines, and is aiming to incorporate solar power generation and storage batteries to provide more stable supplies of electricity in the area in the future.