With all of Japan’s fifty nuclear reactors offline and expensive gas imports striking a blow to the economy, the government has begun tapping renewable energy to resolve the country’s energy problem. One option being looked at is wind energy, given the country’s long coastline, particularly the newly built floating windmills which will start operating next month.
The floating windmills are 12 miles from the defunct nuclear plant in Fukushima and stand on floating platforms, only anchored to the seabed. The windmill measures 350 feet and has the ability to generate energy enough to supply electric power for 1,700 households. Using windmills as alternative source of energy is believed to be the beginning of Japan’s take on clean energy. Its goal is even ambitious, which is to generate more than 1 gigawatt of electricity from 140 wind turbines by 2020. That energy is considered to be the same amount generated by a nuclear reactor.
Through a public-private-partnership, the government of Japan has agreed to pay 22 billion yen ($226 million) for the building cost of the first three wind turbines. Included in the consortium are Shimizu and Marubeni, Hitachi, and Mitshubishi Heavy Industries. “It’s Japan’s biggest hope,” said Hideo Imamura, a spokesman for Shimizu. He took pride in the project he described as “an all-Japan effort, almost 100 percent Japan-made.”
According to Civil Engineer and project leader Takeshi Ishihara from the University of Tokyo, Japan is “opening a new page in the history of offshore wind power.” Utilizing wind energy, by having the windmills stationed in Japan’s deeper waters, is believed to be able to generate electricity as much as 1,570 gigawatts. The only drawback, however, is the maintenance of the infrastructure. “The farther from the coast they place these floating wind farms, the more expensive it becomes to build them and transmit the power back to Japan,” said Paul Scalise, a research fellow at the Institute of Social Science in Todai.