Wind turbines still standing in Japan

On 11 March this year a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck the Pacific coast of Japan. Not only were over 15,000 deaths recorded, but according to Wikipedia over 4,000 people are still missing. It was Japan’s most powerful earthquake ever recorded, so powerful was it that the island of Honshu shifted eight feet to the east and the combined effect of the quake and tsunami caused the Fukushima nuclear plant to go into meltdown.

While the full consequences of the nuclear power accident remain unknown – the latest reports reveal that the planned cold shutdown of the plant by the end of this year has been delayed and that 35 of the country’s 54 nuclear energy plants are still offline – there is one positive story for Japan’s energy infrastructure: no wind turbines were destroyed by the earthquake.

Yoshinori Ueda from the Japan Wind Energy Association confirmed that none of Japan’s 1,798 wind turbines were heavily damaged. “The wind turbines might have automatically stopped their operation when then sensed warning signals due to the earthquake or irregularity of interconnected grids,” he told us.

Only one wind turbine in a wind farm appears to be leaning over a little and there may have been some damage to wind turbines or transmission lines that is still undiscovered due to the damage done to roads, he added.

Japan currently has a wind power capacity of 2,410 MW and since the Japanese government ended subsidies for wind power last year, there are no planned installations, Mr. Ueda said. However, a new feed-in tariff – which would open the way for new wind power investments – is under discussion in the Parliament and a decision is due on 26 August.

In May, Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced that wind power and other renewables will play a much more important role in providing electricity to the country.

Zoë Casey,