Floating Windmills New Idea in Japan to Wind Down Nuclear

Japan is preparing to bolt turbines onto barges and build the world’s largest commercial power plant using floating windmills, tackling the engineering challenges of an unproven technology to cut its reliance on atomic energy.

Marubeni Corp. (8002), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) and Nippon Steel Corp. (5401) are among developers erecting a 16-megawatt pilot plant off the coast of Fukushima, site of the nuclear accident that pushed the government to pursue cleaner energy. The project may be expanded to 1,000 megawatts, the trade ministry said, bigger than any wind farm fixed to the seabed or on land.

“Japan is surrounded by deep oceans, and this poses challenges to offshore wind turbines that are attached to the bottom of the sea,” Senior Vice Environment Minister Katsuhiko Yokomitsu said at a meeting in Tokyo this month. “We are eager for floating offshore wind to become a viable technology.”

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Energy Smart Japan places 18th in new wind farms in ’10

Japan placed 18th in the global rankings for new wind power installations in 2010, creating 221,000 kw of renewable energy capacity compared with 16.5 million kw by China, the world’s front-runner, according to a recent study by an international trade association.

Japan’s total wind-power generating capacity grew about 10 percent from the previous year against 22.5 percent globally as many countries rushed to develop alternative energy sources to fight climate change and reduce their reliance on oil, the Global Wind Energy Council said.

The global output capacity of wind farms increased by 35,800,000 kw to 194,390,000 kw last year, said GWEC.

Japan trailed emerging economies Brazil and Mexico in new installations.

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