Intelligent Energy

Japan's wind turbines remain operational

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Japan's wind power trade associations are reporting that no major damage occurred at affiliate wind farms in the wake of last week's natural disasters.

Wind Power Ibaraki's "Wind Power Kamisu" wind farm withstood a powerful offshore earthquake. Copyright Wind Power Ibaraki

Wind turbines have continued to generate power in Japan in the wake of the most damaging earthquakes and tsunami in the island nation’s modern history.

The leader of the International Committee of the Japan Wind Power Association and Japan Wind Energy Association has stated that members have reported no damage to their wind facilities, according to environmentalist Kelly Rigg, writing for the Huffington Post.

The associations’ leader, Yoshinori Ueda, told Rigg that a “semi-offshore” wind farm located 300km from the epicenter of the quake survived the disaster. Ueda credited the turbines’ “bullet proof” design.

Most Japanese wind turbines are fully operational, and operators are being asked to increase capacity to confront severe power shortages in the East, Ueda noted.

However, wind is not an abundant source of renewable energy in Japan; it has instead opted for geothermal and solar technologies. The government’s renewable-energy policy has set comparatively low targets for wind power.

Nuclear energy is Japan's "clean" energy workhorse. It accounts for 34.5 percent of Japan’s electricity generation, but neglected, outdated – and possibly faulty -- reactor designs have proven to be unfit for Japan’s high-risk geography.

All too often, the potential for a disaster is only clear for power brokers to recognize after it happens. Some critics have accused regulators of being too close to the nuclear industry.

It would be unfair to place all the blame on any individual or organizations, but the Japanese people must live through the consequences - even though newer technologies were available to make nuclear power safer.

Japan is now in the midst of suffering its greatest natural – and manmade– disasters in generations. Thousands are dead or unaccounted for, its infrastructure is in shambles, and damaged nuclear facilities threaten catastrophe near major population centers.

It’s difficult to predict what will happen amid the confluence of conflicting reports about the severity of the damage to Japan’s Fukushima reactors and their adjacent fuel storage facilities.

Regardless of the outcome (we hope for the best), it’s likely that Japanese public sentiment will turn against nuclear power and make windmills a more common sight in the future.

Related on SmartPlanet:

Japan's partial meltdowns and the future of nuclear power in the U.S.

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David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure