According to the Global Wind Energy Council Japan ranked 18th in wind power installations in 2010, creating 221,000 kilowatts of renewable energy. Countries with the most existing wind-energy capacity (gigawatts in 2008): 1) the United States (25,170); 2) Germany (23,903); 3) Spain (16,754); 4) China (12,210); 4) India (9,645); 6) France (4,404); 7) Italy (3,736); 8) Britain (3,231); 9) Denmark (3,180); 10) Portugal (2,862); Rest of the World (16,686)

Countries with most wind-energy capacity per capita (megawatts in 2008): 1) Denmark (581.6); 2) Spain (414.2); 3) Germany (290.1); 4) Portugal (268); 5) United States (83.6); 6) Italy (64.3); 7) France (53.4); 8) Britain (53.3); 9) China (9.2); 10) India (8.5); Rest of World (4.7).

Japan generated about 1.07 million kilowatt-hours of electricity with wind power from 1,050 wind turbines in 2005, compared to 300,000kWh from 450 wind power generators nationwide in 2003, and 80,000 kilowatt-hours from 198 turbines in 1999. Wind power capacity in 2005: 1,231 megawatts, compared to 12,000 megawatts in Germany, the world leader, and 1,700 in India. Japan hopes to raise its capacity to 3,000 megawatts and get 0.2 percent of its energy from wind power by 2011. Wind power generates electricity for 20 percent of the cost of solar power

There were 1,300 wind power generators as of January 2008.

In the case of wind power generation, an area 3.5 times larger than that inside the Yamanote Line would be needed to generate the same amount of energy as a nuclear reactor. This low "power generating density" pushes up the cost.

Wind Power Companies in Japan

Eurus Energy Holding , Electric Power Development and Japan Wind Development Corp. are three main wind power companies in Japan. Japan Wind Development is a Japanese utility. Its stock prices increased three fold in the moths after it debuted on the Tokyo Stock Market in 2003. It has wind mills in Kyushu, Chiba Prefecture and Germany. Eurus Energy Holdings is owned by Tokyo Electric Power and Tomen.

Three quarters of Japan’s wind turbines are made abroad. They are operated by regional governments and companies such as Eurus Energy Holding , Electric Power Development and Wind Development Corp.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is Japan’s No. 1 wind turbine maker. Tokyo Electric Power is also developing turbines.

The government began offering generous subsidies for wind generator construction in 1997. There are plans to build large windmill parks in coastal and mountain areas where there are strong winds. There is not much free land so utilities and wind power companies are lobbying the government to be allowed to build windmill parks in national and quasi-national parks. This idea has run up against resistance by some people who consider strings of windmills to be an eyesore.

Mitsubishi heavy Industries is supply wind turbines for the world’s largest wind far project in Britain.

Wind Power Dangers

In Japan, wind power has been blamed for causing heath problems such as insomnia, hand tremors, headaches and stiff shoulders to people who live near the facilities In one neighborhood with 100 people near a row of windmills in Shizuoka Prefecture 20 percent complained of health problem that they linked with infrasonic waves produced by the windmills.

There are concerns about the whirling blades of wind generators killing or injuring protected species of birds. Windmills have already been blamed for killing white-tailed eagles. In Hokkaido some turbines are painted bright red and lit up at night to warn birds.

There is some resistance to wind farms in densely populated Japan. Plans to build 16 huge turbines on Mt. Neko in Nagano Prefecture have stalled because of concerns construction tainting water supplies and threats to local animals such as eagles and serow.

In January 2007 a 68-meter-high, 179-ton windmill snapped at its base and fell over in Aomori Prefecture. The turbine was built to withstand winds of 216kph but came down n winds of only 90kph. The generator was made in Denmark and installed by a Japanese construction company. The accident was blamed on a design flaw that allowed the all the reenforcement bars in the inner ring of the base to break into pieces while those on the outer rings were largely intact. The windmill was part of the Iwaya Wind Farm, which opened in 2001 and has 25 windmills across 100 to 200 meters apart,

Wind Farms in Japan

Most wind farms in Japan are scattered in the rugged areas of far north or south Japan. The Nunobiki Wind Farm in Fukushima Prefecture, two hours from Tokyo consists of dozens of wind turbines emerging from farmer’s fields. It produces electricity for about 35,000 homes.

The 25 generators at the wind farm in Higashidorimura in Aomori Prefecture are set up in a curve at intervals of 100 meters to 200 meters on the top of a ridge.

Japan is looking more and more to the sea as a source of wind power. Japan’s first ocean-based wind power generators were placed off Setnacho, Hokkaido to harness the consistent ocean breezes that blow there. Built in 2003 in a breakwater about one kilometer off shore and consisting of two 600-kilowatt turbines, it is the first offshore wind farm outside of Europe and produces enough electricity to power 1,000 homes. There are wind generators at Tokyo port and Muroran harbor in Hokkaido but they are built on land.

There are plans to build a networks of offshore wind farms to tape the strong winds that blow off the Pacific Ocean. The project is supposed to really gain momentum if the major electric companies follow through with plans to build massive offshore wind farms near coastal power stations. Thus far the energy industry has it doubts over the inconsistency of winds and the expense of building and maintaining offshore facilities, which cost 50 percent to 100 percent more to build than land-based systems.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is developing sea-based wind turbines to be used near existing plants. Tokyo electric Power is exploring the use of a large scale floating wind power system.

In March 2010. Seven large wind turbines set in the sea 50 meters off the coastline began operation. Along a two-kilometer-long stretch of coats. The wind turbines are generate enough electricity for 7,000 homes, Placing the I sea ensures steady winds and windes noise by locating them away from residential areas.

In Kyushu there is a wind farm that supplies electricity to 10,000 homes.

Floating Wind Turbine in Japan

In May 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The Environment Ministry plans to start its first trial operation of an offshore floating wind turbine for power generation later this month off Kabashima island--one of the Goto Islands--in Nagasaki Prefecture. Offshore wind turbines have several advantages over land-based turbines including better efficiency and no problems with noise or low-frequency dangers to residents. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, May 17, 2012]

“The trial turbine is a small 100-kilowatt model with three 11-meter blades. The turbine is hollow, allowing it to float, while ballast keeps it upright and wires anchor it to the seafloor. Another type of offshore turbine is fixed directly to the seabed with support pillars. The ministry says it will wait for a calm day to carry the test model to the trial location by ship from a plant in Sasebo in the prefecture.

“Although places suitable for wind turbines on land are limited, Japan, surrounded by the sea, has many suitable offshore locations. Typically, wind turbines generate an average of about 20 percent of their maximum output capacity. The ministry estimates the rate could be about 33 percent in the sea. After checking the turbine's efficiency, environmental impact and safety through the trial, the ministry plans to introduce a larger model, with about 40-meter-long blades and an output capacity of 2,000 kilowatts, in 2013.

“The ministry plans to put offshore wind turbines into practical use by fiscal 2016, aiming at achieving a maximum output of 5.6 million kilowatts--equivalent to the output of more than five nuclear power reactors--by 2030 the officials said. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry also plans to carry out a joint floating wind turbine test project off Fukushima Prefecture with a consortium of private companies and the University of Tokyo. It aims to install 143 offshore turbines between fiscal 2016 and 2020 with the aim of providing 1 million kilowatts of power, about the same as that produced by one nuclear power reactor.

Prof. Yuji Oya of Kyushu University's Research Institute for Applied Mechanics in Fukuoka Prefecture has developed "wind lens turbines," a new wind power generator. According to Oya, the wind turbines are enclosed in rims to catch wind more efficiently. "There are still many hurdles to overcome to put the model into practical use," Oya said. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]

Image Sources: TEPCO, Osaka Gas, Japan Nuclear Power Program, Ray Kinnane, Sanyo, Sharp

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated October 2012

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