Almost entirely dependent on nuclear power just two years ago, Japan is making more investment into renewable energy. The Japanese government is paying 22 billion yen, or $226 million, to construct the first three floating wind turbines 12 miles away from Fukushima. By 2020 Japan plans to place 140 wind turbines to produce over 1 gigawatt of electricity. That is equivalent to the power generated by a nuclear reactor.
These turbines are unlike any other as they float on giant platforms anchored to the seabed. This new innovation expands potential locations for offshore wind farms, which are traditionally fixed into the seabed. This limits their location to water depths of around 50 feet or less- close enough to shore that they are still visible.
The researchers estimate their floater-mounted turbines could work in water depths ranging from about 100 to 650 feet. This means that they could be placed about 30 to 100 miles out at sea. Because winds are stronger farther offshore, the floating windmills could also generate more energy—5.0 megawatts (MW), compared to 1.5 MW for onshore units and 3.5 MW for conventional offshore setups. Like the offshore windmills currently in use, the floating turbines would use undersea cables to shuttle the electricity to land.
Harnessing wind in deeper waters off Japan could generate as much as 1,570 gigawatts of electricity, roughly eight times the current capacity of all of Japan’s power companies combined, according to computer simulations based on historical weather data by researchers at Tokyo University, one of the project’s main participants.
However 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. It could become a cost-plus benefit analysis in which you weigh the benefits of the electricity versus the cost to build and maintain the infrastructure.
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