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    The World’s Biggest Wind Farm Will Be Built at the Site of the Decade’s Biggest Nuclear Disaster

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor


    Sometimes an event is just so thick with symbolism that just reciting the facts seems cliché. Case in point: After experiencing the biggest nuclear disaster of the new century, Japan is building the world’s largest wind farm—right off the coast where the husk of the Fukushima plant still simmers.

    Right now, Japan is scrambling to find enough alternative energy sources to pick up the slack from the fleet of nuclear power plants it shut down in the wake of the meltdown. It’s going on a renewable energy binge, it’s importing coal, and it’s implementing impressive energy efficiency measures to lower demand. But it’s not enough, yet.

    So the government announced a major step forward—ambitious plans to invest heavily in offshore wind power. The new plant to be built off the shore of Fukushima will consist of 143 giant floating turbines, and boasts a capacity of 1 gigawatt of electricity—that’s nearly twice the power of the planet’s second-biggest turbine, which can currently be found in England.

    To put that in perspective, 1 gigwatt is enough to power between 750,000 and 1,000,000 homes. 1 gigawatt is the total capacity of all the solar panels installed in California as of 2011. 1 gigawatt is some serious capacity.

    Furthermore, Japan’s big bad wind farm will be built using innovative new technology that allows them to float rather than being attached directly to the ocean floor.

    PhysOrg reports on some of the specs:

    Instead of anchoring each turbine directly to the ocean floor, the plan is to mount them on floating steel frames that will be anchored to the continental shelf below. To keep them upright, ballast will be used underneath. The plans also call for using 2 megawatt turbines, each standing 200 meters high.

    And it turns out that the choice of location wasn’t merely symbolic, either: “The site was chosen due to the existing infrastructure that had been used to transport power from the Daiichi plant before its destruction,” Bob Yirka writes.

    Even so, the symbolism pervades. Out with the nukes, in with the clean power. Of course, the most urgent modification to the world’s predominant power system is ditching coal, then gas, but drastic transitions like this—and Germany’s post-nuclear evolution—demonstrate how rapidly things can change.