A wind turbine set up in March 2006 was touted as the answer to energy problems in Iga, Mie Prefecture. The clean energy would supplement the power supply for radio relay facilities of a land ministry office that records water levels of the upper reaches of the Kizugawa river.
But there was one problem. The wind turbine fell apart in less than two years.
Malfunctions and accidents involving wind turbines have occurred repeatedly across the country, leading to suspended services and even the scrapping of one facility.
Amid rising oil prices, wind power generation is gaining attention as a means to use limitless natural energy.
However, slipshod surveys of wind, flawed designs or sheer incompetence have dealt a blow to the reputation of wind turbines, which are easier and cheaper to construct than other electric power generation facilities.
“Some local governments have too easily constructed wind turbines as a ‘symbol,'” said Tetsuya Iida, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP), a nonprofit organization in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward. “Organizations that have professional knowledge should be the ones implementing the construction (and management) of these power generation projects in the first place.”
In the Iga case, the small wind turbine on the Aoyama highland broke and fell off the top of the steel tower in December.
The wind turbine was designed to stop automatically during gusts of 90 kph or more.
The land ministry’s office suspects the turbine broke because of insufficient welding.
After the accident, the wind turbine’s Osaka-based manufacturer, E&E Co., asked other operators of its five wind turbines to suspend operations for safety checks.
That has not been the only case.
In January 2007, a 68-meter-high wind turbine made in Denmark toppled in the village of Higashidori, Aomori Prefecture.
Parts that connected the blades to the turbine slipped off, damaging a device that controls the revolutions.
As a result, the blades revolved excessively, putting too much stress on the tower.
The operator, Eurus Energy Iwaya Corp., suspended operations of 24 other wind turbines there and conducted safety checks. About 2? months later, operations resumed.
In 2001, the Tokushima prefectural government started to operate a wind turbine in the Okawara highland in the village of Sanagochi. The construction cost was about 150 million yen.
However, the wind turbine, which had a capacity of 280 kilowatts of electricity, was scrapped in July 2007 due to the damages to the base of the turbine.
The problem was that the designers did not take into account stronger-than-expected wind movements.
The government-affiliated New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), based in Kawasaki, is promoting wind power generation.
According to NEDO, the number of wind turbines increased sharply from 576 in fiscal 2002 to 1,314 in fiscal 2006. But the number of problems also jumped, forcing NEDO to inspect 926 turbines.
The organization found that troubles or accidents requiring more than three days of suspension occurred in 77 of the turbines from April 2006 to February 2007.
At 14 of the 77 turbines, manufacturing defects or insufficient maintenance were the causes of the troubles or accidents.(IHT/Asahi: January 19,2008)
By Kazuo Asami
19 January 2008