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The Environment Ministry will begin developing a system in the next year to extract hydrogen from seawater to power fuel cells in hopes of creating a fully renewable energy supply, ministry officials said.

The ministry said it is looking forward to creating “energy that can really be renewable” if hydrogen can be produced using the natural energy of wind power.

It is hoped the system will extract hydrogen from seawater through electrolysis using wind-generated electricity, the officials said.

Construction of wind-power plants has become common in Europe and Japan in recent years, but a facility where hydrogen is extracted to power fuel cells “has no practical precedent, even worldwide,” according to the ministry.

A power station will be built on a large floating structure in the sea where winds are relatively strong. The research project will try to develop an efficient way to extract hydrogen from seawater and transport it to land.

Fuel cells generate electricity through chemical reactions of hydrogen and oxygen, emitting only water as a byproduct and not carbon dioxide, which is believed to be a cause of global warming.

The cells have already been put to practical use in some automobiles.

However, the current supply of hydrogen depends on fossil fuels, including methane, which is believed to be 10 times more potent as a global warming threat than carbon dioxide, and natural gas and gasoline, which emit carbon dioxide.

The ministry’s budget request for fiscal 2003 includes 100 million yen for research expenses on the project at the National Institute for Environmental Studies, the officials said.

Emissions of carbon dioxide in Japan in fiscal 2000 were 10 percent higher than in 1990, the base year in the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The ministry said it is important to develop technologies that lower such emissions. It is also urging people in Japan to conserve energy.

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