In the efforts to find renewable sources of energy to eventually downscale – or even phase out, if the opinion of some politicians is to be followed – nuclear power usage in Japan, a floating experimental wind turbine set around 20 kilometers off the coast of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is seen to be a huge step toward building the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Japan’s offshore winds reportedly have the potential to produce 1,570 gigawatts of power – more than five times the current output of Japan’s power companies.
Wind is one of the renewable sources of energy considered vital to Japan’s search for alternative energy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. “I believe that the Fukushima (wind) project will help the Fukushima region and Japan as a whole move toward more use of renewable energy,” says Takeshi Ishihara, a civil engineer at the University of Tokyo and leader of the Fukushima wind farm project. Ishihara explains that a traditional wind turbine tower that is built upward from the seafloor becomes too expensive to install in waters deeper than 50 meters, and this is a big problem for Japan because its coast is surrounded by a continental shelf ranging from 50 to 200 meters deep. A floating wind turbine, however, complete with its own substation and multiple huge steel chains anchoring them to the seafloor can operate in those deeper waters.
These offshore wind farms in the future will be able to reap the benefit of higher average wind speeds compared with land-based wind farms. A study has shown that wind speeds are considerably faster offshore near Fukushima than on land. “Japan has lots of deep water off the coast, which is a good wind resource,” says Walt Musial, principal engineer at the National Wind Technology Center near Boulder, Colorado. “In order to develop that resource it needs to be at the forefront of development for floating turbine technology.” Japan has just recently opened its largest solar power facility in Kagoshima Prefecture, a major sign that the effort towards renewable energy is gaining momentum. The Fukushima floating wind farm project has a ways to go, and some technological and political challenges to face along the way. But if the testing goes well, a private coalition that includes firms such as Marubeni, Mitsubishi, Hitachi and others has signed on to pay for full installation of 140 floating wind turbines.
[via Scientific American]
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