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Floating wind farm on Fukushima's horizon

Floating wind farm on Fukushima's horizon

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A new energy source may soon rise up near the site of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

A new energy source may soon rise up near the site of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster in Japan. Marubeni trading company, along with a consortium of Japanese companies, is reportedly close to finalizing a deal to build an experimental 12-megawatt floating wind farm in waters close to the TEPCO-owned nuclear power plant. The deal appears to have been originally reported in local news agency Jiji Press, according to Renewable Energy Magazine.

The Japanese government has talked publicly before about plans to construct a wind farm offshore Fukushima. Last September, the country's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said it would earmark $261 million for the project. Recent reports of the Maurbeni deal suggests the government's plans have finally materialized.

Industrial giants Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nippon Steel and Mitsui Construction also are part of the Marubeni-led consortium. According to reports, the 12-MW floating wind farm would be installed by the end of 2016. The project would be financed by a reconstruction budget set up by the government following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The floating wind farm project is expected to begin next month.

The Japanese government has backed away from nuclear power in the months following the disaster at Fukushima, which was triggered by the tsunami. The Japan ditched plans in May to build 14 more reactors. Later that summer, Japan's Cabinet approved a five-year science and technology plan that de-emphasizes next generation nuclear tech in favor of renewables. That decision leaves Japan, a country with no natural energy resources of its own, searching for power alternatives.

The power capacity lost by retiring old plants and canceling the 14 new ones would be about 399 billion kilowatt-hours by 2030,  according to figures published last year by the Breakthrough Institute. To replace that lost generation would require a nearly 49-fold increase in electricity generated by wind, solar and geothermal. Offshore wind is viewed as an important tool to help bridge a massive energy gap in a country with little available land. And Marubeni is well positioned to take a lead in offshore wind.

Last September, Marubeni acquired a 49.9 percent stake in DONG Energy's 172-MW Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm located off the Essex coast in the UK. With the acquisition, Marubeni's total worldwide power generating capacity reached 8,796 MW, including 450 MW of renewable energy assets.

Photo: Wind Power Ibaraki, a semi-offshore wind farm located 300 kilometers from the epicenter of the March 2011 earthquake

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure