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October 1998

Making Electricity from Waves

The ocean's waves are regarded as a clean and environmentally friendly source of electricity. In September 1998 the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center started testing a floating power plant that uses waves to generate electricity. The plant, nicknamed "Mighty Whale," was jointly developed by the center and the Science and Technology Agency. Data collected from the experimental facility will be used to build a number of similar plants in the future.

The Mighty Whale measures 50 meters (160 feet) long and 30 meters (100 feet) wide and weighs around 4,400 tons. Its name comes from the fact that it looks like a huge whale, with a mouth and fins painted on the part that floats above water.

Waves that pour into and out of its three "mouths" compress the air inside the plant's chambers, and the difference in air pressure turns a turbine, in turn generating electricity.

The power plant floats off the coast of Mie Prefecture and now generates an average of around 14 kilowatts--enough electricity for four to five households; its maximum output is 110 kilowatts. Center officials say that testing will continue for two years to collect data of various kinds.

Photo: The Mighty Whale gets ready to generate power. (Japan Marine Sciece and Technology Center)

If you want to learn more about this project, visit the Mighty Whale page in
the Japan Marine Science and Technology Center Website.