A new Japanese offshore wind farm has had the first wind turbine turned on to feed electricity into the local grid. The significance of the wind farm is that it sits 20km off the coast of Fukushima and will be feeding electricity into the grid that is tethered to the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant which was crippled in the 2011 tsunami.
The project is government funded but is being led by Marubeni Corp. The company hopes that the success of this project will be the first of a number that will be implemented along Japan’s coast. The potential wind power in Japan has been estimated to be 1,570 gigawatts.
The wind turbine that has been switched on is a 2MW downwind turbine and is known by the name Fukushima Mirai (shown on the left). It was built at a dry dock near Tokyo and towed to its location.
The wind turbines are floating and are tethered to the seafloor by cables that measure 400 feet long. This is in answer to one of the big challenges of creating offshore wind farms around Japans in the form of the ocean depths. Other countries are able to build offshore wind farms on shallow continental shelf slopes. Japan’s location is in the “ring of fire” and there are many areas where undersea trenches have formed.
With all 50 of Japan’s nuclear reactors currently offline while they are undergoing safety checks there is a great deal of aggressive investing in renewable alternatives. The use of renewable energy in the form of wind power will offset the lost power capacity and will also reduce the cost of having to import alternative energy sources such as oil and gas.
At this stage the production of electricity from this single turbine is a demonstration of the capabilities of the area and the technology. The Fukushima coastline is vast and deserted and positioning the huge turbines so far off the coast they will not create noise or visibility issues.
The winds this far offshore are also much more reliable and will allow a greater probability of being able to integrate with the fishing industry without adversely affecting it.
The consortium involved in the project comprises the following companies: Marubeni (project integrator), the University of Tokyo (technical advisor), Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Japan Marine United, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, Hitachi, Furukawa Electric, Shimizu and Mizuho Information & Research.
As well as the commissioning of the first 2MW floating turbine the project also includes a 66kV floating power sub-station or “Fukushima Kizuna” (shown on right).
There is a planned 2nd phase of the project and this will comprise 2 x 7MW oil pressure drive-type floating wind turbines or Fukushima Shimpuu. These turbines will be in place and operational in 2014 and will increase the total capacity of the wind farm to 16MW. This will turn the wind farm into the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm.
The ultimate plan is to develop the Japanese offshore wind industry to the point where it becomes a viable export industry. This is an experimental project that is hoping to demonstrate that offshore wind power is not only possible in the waters around Japan but there is a significant potential that is waiting to be tapped.