J-STORIES - There are great hopes for wind as a source of renewable energy, but Japan's mountainous interior and frequent typhoons make conventional wind turbines a challenging option.
Now a Tokyo-based company has come up with an imaginative alternative that kills two birds with one stone — tilting turbines that not only are sturdy enough to withstand the fiercest winds, but can also be easily built out at sea.
Compared to conventional sea-based turbines that point directly upwards, the FAWT's tilting function is better equipped to withstand storms such as the typhoons that annually buffet Japan. What’s more, it can be assembled out at sea without the use of a crane and the installation cost is approximately half that of conventional floating turbines.
This is a boon for a mountainous country like Japan, where building space is at a premium. It also gets around another problem often associated with conventional turbines — noise pollution.
And since there is relatively little shallow ocean around Japan to site turbines with fixed foundations, a number of local startups such as Albatross have been working on wind turbines that float.
To date, building “seamless” blades for the largest turbines in Japan has been prohibitively costly. FAWT, however, are made from smaller carbon-composite components, reducing costs. Furthermore, they don’t need to be made in a large manufacturing plant, and labor costs could potentially be reduced by automating production.
According to the company, if the turbines were fitted with small domestic dynamos rather than larger imported ones, the whole production process could take place in Japan.
In September 2022, the company received ¥100 million in funding from Tokyo-based Genesia Ventures Inc. It plans to begin ocean trials of a smaller scale FAWT during fiscal 2024, then test and commercialize a larger design within five years.
CEO Akimoto told J-Stories, “The important thing is not to make something that can only be made in Japan, but to acquire the technology to enable [these turbines] to be made in Japan.”
Akimoto said that he hopes to receive subsidies from the Japanese government, accelerate development, and go head-to-head with competitors oversea, such as the Swedish firm SeaTwirl, maker of a similar floating turbine.
Translation by Tony McNicol
Top page photo by Albatross Technology
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