Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Japanese consortium to invest £962 million in offshore wind power

wind lens turbines
 This new wind turbine design could soon be seen off the coast of Japan. It is up to 3 times more efficient than conventional designs.

As Japan abandons nuclear power, Toshiba, Hitachi and other partners have set up a consortium to invest £962 million in offshore wind power.

Toshiba Corp, Hitachi Zosen Corp, JFE Steel Corp, Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd, Toa Corp and Toyo Construction Co. Ltd. together plan to invest 120 billion yen (£962 million) over ten years.

Japan faces a bill of at least 50 trillion yen (£401 billion) to install sufficient renewable energy infrastructure by 2030 if it decides to completely phase out nuclear power, the Japanese government estimated on Tuesday.

Potential sites for the wind farms are off the coast of the Kyushu region in southern Japan, where they could generate around 300 MW.

Pilot installations with a capacity of 7.5 MW will be constructed first, by 2016. The rest will be erected over the remaining six years.

The firms will raise the investment funds by setting up a special-purpose company and project financing.

Japan hopes to begin building commercial offshore wind farms, copying countries in Europe, especially Britain, following the post-Fukushima government decision to reduce reliance on nuclear power in favour of natural gas and renewable energy.

Its environment ministry has estimated the country can eventually build 1,600 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity.

Currently, Japanese utilities are obliged to buy solar and wind powered electricity from generators at an especially generous feed-in tariff: 23.1 yen per kilowatt-hour for 20 years, almost double the market rate for industrial users.

New design

Japan's geography doesn't lend itself to onshore wind farms.

There is speculation that the new wind farms may use exciting new wind turbine designs, such as the one illustrated above, which has been undergoing field tests at Kyushu University.

Its designers estimate that it could generate two or even three times more energy than existing turbines. They call it a ‘wind lens’, and it aims to solve two problems faced by existing wind turbines: noise and inefficiency.

Their design includes an inward curving green around the perimeter of the turbine blafes, which increases by a factor of up to three the speed of the air blowing through the blade zones. It also serves as a safety improvement and reduces noise levels.

The team at the University has also designed a hexagonal-shaped base for the turbines, that is comparatively cheap but still strong enough to endure marine conditions. This design makes it easier to link turbines together and enlarge the wind farm.

Currently, wind power accounts for less than 1% of all energy produced in Japan.

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