It’s really quite amazing how much use we get out of the ocean. It supports ecosystems, it is a source of food, an easy means of transportation, and we are now just beginning to tap into its vast energy potential. Power generators such as tidal turbines, floating wave energy generators, and floating solar panels are all being used today to power our cities.
You might be surprised to learn that the ocean is actually also responsible for much of the world’s wind. Land heats much more quickly than the ocean, which results in a difference in air pressure and eventually wind. So while you may think of wind turbines near the ocean as being powered by wind, they actually owe much of the wattage they collect to the ocean.
The Japanese are hoping to truly harness the potential wind energy of the ocean by building floating wind turbines. This new initiative emerged in the aftermath of the terrible tsunami that assaulted the small island nation. The tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which only served to make a bad situation worse.
To avoid a repeat of history, the Japanese government has decided to cautiously move away from nuclear power and focus more on renewable energy sources, such as wind, tidal, or geothermal energy. While this is certainly a commendable objective, it will not be an easy task, as experts project that Japan will need to increase their current green energy sources by a factor of 49.
The floating wind farm they have planned should serve to boost local energy sources significantly. By relying on floating designs rather than land-based installation, these floating wind farms can easily be installed in the windiest region. And, if the need ever arises to change the scenery, these floating wind farms will be much more portable than their terrestrial counterparts.
One thing I can’t help but wonder, though, is how safe these wind farms are going to be in the event of another tsunami. After all, Japan’s proximity to the Pacific Ring of Fire makes it particularly susceptible to tectonic activity, so would relying on offshore wind turbines be just as risky as building a power plant on the coast? It’s hard to say for sure, and it’s certainly a gamble, as it is essentially impossible to predict when and where the next tsunami will strike. These generators could power Japan’s coastal cities for decades, or they could be quickly wiped out months after installation.