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Wind goes out of green energy project's sails

The project to make Tsukuba a self-sufficient showpiece for green energy has failed, heaping scorn upon the central government programme to test alternative sources. It is likely to be used as ammunition by sceptics elsewhere, including Britain, where the Government this week published its energy review. Tsukuba is now locked into a spiral of civil litigation, criminal investigations and an unprecedented attack on the academic reputation of Waseda University, Japan’s most respected seat of learning.

The thick summer air above the Yatabe Minami elementary school sags with humidity. The playground swelters without the slightest hint of a breeze and on the top of the highest trees, the leaves do not even flicker. Below them, the sails of the gleaming Darius-Savonius generator stand embarrassingly still.

Welcome to Tsukuba, the town that prides itself on being the most hallowed scientific research centre in Japan and the site of perhaps the worst electricity wind farm in the world: in the 12 months it has been operating, its million-pound windmills have consumed 43 times more power than they have generated.

The project to make Tsukuba a self-sufficient showpiece for green energy has failed, heaping scorn upon the central government programme to test alternative sources. It is likely to be used as ammunition by sceptics elsewhere, including Britain, where the Government this week published its energy review. Tsukuba is now locked into a spiral of civil litigation, criminal investigations and an unprecedented attack on the academic reputation of Waseda University, Japan’s most respected seat of learning.

Faced with the embarrassment of its stagnant windmills and what a city representative... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

The thick summer air above the Yatabe Minami elementary school sags with humidity. The playground swelters without the slightest hint of a breeze and on the top of the highest trees, the leaves do not even flicker. Below them, the sails of the gleaming Darius-Savonius generator stand embarrassingly still.
 
Welcome to Tsukuba, the town that prides itself on being the most hallowed scientific research centre in Japan and the site of perhaps the worst electricity wind farm in the world: in the 12 months it has been operating, its million-pound windmills have consumed 43 times more power than they have generated.

The project to make Tsukuba a self-sufficient showpiece for green energy has failed, heaping scorn upon the central government programme to test alternative sources. It is likely to be used as ammunition by sceptics elsewhere, including Britain, where the Government this week published its energy review. Tsukuba is now locked into a spiral of civil litigation, criminal investigations and an unprecedented attack on the academic reputation of Waseda University, Japan’s most respected seat of learning.

Faced with the embarrassment of its stagnant windmills and what a city representative called a “negative image problem” for Tsukuba, the scene has descended into farce. To give the impression of a functioning alternative energy programme, on parent-teacher evenings and for visits by outside dignitaries, the generators are reversed to become motors and the sails are made to turn artificially.

For the children of Tsukuba, who have watched with fascination as the 10m turbines have been erected in their schoolyards, summer science projects are in ruins. They had planned to keep daily registers of what electricity the windmills were producing, but after a couple of weeks finding the needles locked at “0.0 kWh”, the excitement faded fast.

The three windmills at Yatabe are among 23 installed last July at schools around the high-tech university town of Tsukuba, which had intended to install first dozens, then possibly hundreds more. Home to top-secret industrial laboratories, the Japanese space programme and the country’s biggest robotics institute, Tsukuba has long been pitched as Japan’s technology showcase. The perfect location, one might think, for the Environmental Agency’s much-prized Paradise Plan for alternative energy.

Unfortunately, the town has a year-round average wind-speed of just 2.5km/h — a far cry from the 15-20km/h average needed to make a wind farm work. At some of the better-situated schools, one or two of the windmills have occasionally begun spinning in the winter gusts. Between them, though, the 23 windmills have produced just one megawatt in 12 months, while they were expected to generate over 200 megawatts.

The situation has appalled experts in the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry. The director of its Industrial Technology Research Institute director, Shunji Kawamura, said: “Judging from the wind status within the city it should have been perfectly clear the windmills would never work.”

Unfortunately, the Hybrid Wing model of windmill purchased for £60,000 each by Tsukuba also have a design catch: while the sails are not turning, they consume just under three megawatts per year.

Proclaiming itself outraged and depressed by the situation, the Tsukuba City Citizens’ Ombudsman has taken the local authorities to court, demanding on behalf of taxpayers that the millions wasted on the project be returned.

In the course of their research, the academics and industrialists who form the ombudsman have uncovered what they claim is a network of bid-rigging scams and other corruption associated with the windmill project. Police are launching a criminal investigation of the sequence of events that led to the wind farm being constructed.

“Tsukuba has the reputation of being the highest-tech city in the world, but in reality it is run by people right out of the 19th century”" said Daijiro Kameyama, the head of the Shisei ombudsman.

But Tsukuba City has launched its own 300 million yen (£1.5 million) civil suit against Waseda University, the Tokyo-based academic powerhouse whose original research suggested that the windmills would generate huge amounts of free electricity for the city. The windmills themselves were built by a Waseda University spin-off company.
 
 


Source: http://www.timesonline.co.u...

JUL 13 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/4819-wind-goes-out-of-green-energy-project-s-sails
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