The government-sponsored project, carried out by some of Japan's best-known companies and university, is touted as a symbol of the rebuilding of Fukushima, which was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown. The turbine will have the largest generating capacity of any offshore windmill in the world.
The port of Onahama in the city of Iwaki, forms a backdrop for the rising white tower and the massive crane used to erect it. The turbine, composed of three 82-meter-long blades and a 190-meter tower, is built to withstand wind speeds up to 300kph.
The Fukushima Wind Offshore Consortium, which is building the turbine and will operate it, includes trading house Marubeni, equipment maker Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, technology conglomerate Hitachi and the University of Tokyo.
The consortium received a mandate from the Japanese government to conduct studies on offshore wind power generation facilities. In late 2013, the first test turbine was installed off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, 20km, with a generating capacity of 2,000kW.
The consortium is now assembling the second test turbine at Onahama. The second turbine is designed to generate up to 7,000kW of electricity, making it 3.5 times more powerful than the first.
The technical phase of test-operation is almost complete. So far, there have been no technical failures with the first turbine. The test operation of the second turbine will focus on ironing out the kinks to commercialize the technology. "Japan has lagged behind Europe in offshore wind turbine development, but with this success, we will be able to leap to the global forefront in this area," said Takeshi Ishihara, a University of Tokyo professor and consortium member.
The cost of the Fukushima project has been put at 50 billion yen ($401 million).
With many new entrants from developing nations in the global wind power market, price competition in turbines is heating up. To spark new demand, it will be necessary to halve the cost of offshore wind farms. Balancing technology and cost will be key if wind power is to reach its full potential as an alternative energy source.