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January 24, 2013

1-GW Wind Farm to be Built Offshore of Japan's Padlocked Daiichi Nuclear Plant



What the ocean took away from Japan in the massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, it is now being harnessed to return in some small measure.

Almost two years after one of history’s worst nuclear disasters forced Japan to close all but two of its atomic energy plants, the nation is developing what may be the world’s largest offshore field of wind farms near the site of the shuttered Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant complex.  

The energy generated by the wind farm should produce about 1 gigawatt (GW) of capacity, or roughly enough to power 700,000 homes. That’s only about one-quarter of Daiichi’s past 4.7 gigawatt output—and a small fraction of the amount of power taken offline when more than 50 other nuclear plants were shut down after the accident—but it’s a start.  

The recently announced wind farm project, due for completion in 2020, will comprise 143 offshore turbines about 10 miles off the coast of Fukushima prefecture. Construction is expected to begin in July.

"The shutdown of Japan's nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami has changed the perspectives toward renewable energy technologies,” Suchitra Sriram, an energy and environment analyst at the New York City-based market research firm Frost & Sullivan (News - Alert), told the International Business Times.

The project’s builder has not been announced, but industry players would put their money on Mitsubishi Corporation. The Tokyo-based company already is a major player in offshore wind—with another huge project, the Luchterduinen Offshore Wind Farm, sited about 15 miles off the coast of the Netherlands, ballyhooed just this week.

According to a report released last November by the Global Wind Energy Council, Japan ended 2011 with 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of maximum wind capacity, including the 166 megawatts added that year from 78 installed turbines. This amounts to less than one percent of Japan’s total electricity demand. The GWEC said one major hurdle for Japan in its drive to rapidly accelerate renewable energy development is that its entire energy sector requires reconsideration and reconstruction.

“Since the share of renewables in the energy mix in Japan is low, major efforts are required to replace the old energy system with a more modern and flexible system, suitable for large deployment of renewables,” said the report.  “However, the most serious problem in Japan is the monopolistic and vertically integrated structure of its utilities. The future of Japan’s electricity sector post-Fukushima remains a major subject of debate.”

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Edited by Brooke Neuman


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