The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 and subsequent Fukushima nuclear accident have made many in Japan rethink the country’s reliance on atomic energy. Investment in alternative, renewable energy sources is looking more and more attractive to some, and the sentiment is particularly strong among residents of Fukushima Prefecture itself.
Those seeking a less volatile source of power may be getting their wish with the proposed development of what would be the world’s largest-output floating wind farm off the Fukushima coast.
While Japan’s small landmass and mountainous topography limit the potential number of terrestrial wind farm sites, as an island nation the area encompassed by its territorial waters is considerable.
Wind turbines have been placed on platforms anchored to the seafloor in Europe since over 20 years ago, and recent years have seen the U.S. and China embarking on similar large-scale endeavors. The project in Fukushima, however, is slightly different.
For the project, officially known as the Fukushima Revival Floating Marine Wind Farm Practicality Study, turbines will be placed on platforms that float on the surface of the water. The platform is similar to those used in shipbuilding or submarine oil drilling operations.
The first turbine, christened Fukushima Mirai, meaning “Fukushima Future,” went up in November last year on a platform 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) off the coast of Fukushima. The structure stands 106 meters (348 feet) tall, with the diameter of the massive circle formed by its blades measures 80 meters. Engineers say Fukushima Mirai’s 2,000 kilowatt output provides sufficient energy for 1,700 households.
▼ The power transforming station for Fukushima Mirai
The project was commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, with a list of contributors that reads like a who’s who of Japanese engineering. A total of 10 companies are pitching in, including Mitsubishi, Hitachi, Shimizu Corporation, and Nippon Steel Sumitomo Metal. Supervising the technical aspects of the endeavor is Takeshi Ishihara, a professor at Tokyo University’s Graduate Engineering Research Department.
▼ Ishihara, clearly a man who’s enthusiastic about wind power
The next major milestone for the project comes in 2015, when Fukushima Mirai will be joined by two more, even larger turbines. Each is set to have blades with a diameter of 164 meters, over twice the size of Fukushima Mirai’s, and produce 7,000 kilowatts of electricity, bringing the tally for the three to 16,000, giving it a higher output than any other floating wind farm currently in existence.
Organizers are hoping the facility will become not only a source of clean energy, but a model for similar projects as well. Some have even claimed the Fukushima wind farm could set off a chain of similar projects around Japan, with the associated demand for components and engineers rivaling that of the auto industry. Here’s hoping everything goes according to plan, giving us the win-win of economic prosperity and ecological preservation.