A small company is trying to play a major role in developing windmills off the coast of Ibaraki Prefecture as interest grows in Japan for increasing the use of natural energy sources.
Wind Power Ibaraki, based in Mito, has only eight employees, including company president Mamoru Komatsuzaki, but it plans to construct up to 100 offshore windmills along the Ibaraki coast over the next few years.
Due to Japan's small landmass, wind power generation at sea is an obvious alternative.
Although the construction of windmills began in the 1990s, an official with the Japan Wind Power Association said, "It has become more difficult to find a location where the appropriate wind blows."
About 50 meters off the Kashimanada coast in Kamisu, Ibaraki Prefecture, seven windmills stand in a line stretching for about two kilometers. Each windmill is capable of generating about 2,000 kilowatts of electricity.
Power generation began about a year ago at what was the first example in Japan of windmills constructed outside of a harbor area.
Komatsuzaki, 46, also runs a construction consulting company and moved into wind power generation in 1998. Wind Power Ibaraki also has four windmills off the Kashimanada coast in Ibaraki Prefecture.
The windmills used were jointly developed by Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Hitachi Ltd. Although the windmill and generator could be damaged in a typhoon, an official with Fuji Heavy Industries said, "It can withstand winds of up to 252 kilometers per hour."
Although the area was hit by the March 11 tsunami, there was no damage to the windmills, which are anchored deep into the seabed.
An additional eight windmills will be constructed along the seven now in operation. If the plan to construct 100 windmills off the Kashima coast is realized, the company will be able to generate about 500,000 kilowatts of electricity.
Offshore wind power generation is more prevalent than solar power generation overseas.
In Britain, about 10 trillion yen ($125 billion) was invested to construct about 6,000 windmills in the ocean. That national project now generates about 25 percent of all electricity in Britain.
In Germany, an environment ministry official said efforts were being made to support private-sector investment, with one official saying, "It is important for the central government to establish objectives and to construct an environment that makes it easier for companies to invest."
The Japanese government has also included offshore wind power generation in its new growth strategy, but so far has not agreed on specific objectives.
The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization has been commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to construct a windmill about three kilometers off the coast of Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, with a power generation capacity of about 2,000 kilowatts.
The spread of wind power generation will be greatly influenced by whether the feed-in tariff system for natural energy sources that the administration of Prime Minister Naoto Kan is seeking to introduce is actually implemented. That system would require electric power companies to purchase all electricity generated by natural energy at fixed prices.
Offshore wind power generation costs about 1.5 times more than land-based projects.
Toru Nakao, an official with the Japan Wind Power Association, said, "Spreading wind power will be difficult unless there is either an increase in the price at which electricity is purchased or some subsidy system is introduced."
- « Prev
- Next »