Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

Japan’s Floating Wind Turbines Show the Challenges of Renewables

There’s a huge amount of wind off the coast of Japan, but harnessing it will be fantastically expensive.

  • October 28, 2013

Here’s another glimpse of the challenges involved in attempts to run countries on renewable energy.

In theory, Japan has a huge offshore wind resource—there’s enough to power Japan eight times over, according to an article in the New York Times. But in practice, that’s going to be hard to take advantage of. Since the disaster at Fukushima, Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors have been largely out of commission. To replace just one of them, it needs to  build 140 offshore wind turbines.

And these are no ordinary wind turbines. Because Japan doesn’t have a lot of shallow coastal waters where wind turbines could be secured to the sea floor, as it done in all big offshore wind farms now, the wind turbines have to float, like deep sea oil platforms. The idea of floating turbines isn’t new (see “Wind Power That Floats”) but they’re expensive. The wind turbines are expected to cost eight times as much as wind turbines built on land.

According to the Times, these other challenges might reduce the practical wind resource to just one-third of the country’s electricity needs.

Hear more about renewable energy at EmTech MIT 2017.

Register now

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly magazine delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.