2005/05/22

Hasaki Power! Tilting At Windmills

In early January, we spent one morning in Hasaki Machi (Town), which is South of us on the other side of Kamisu Machi. Hasaki is on a narrow strip of land on the South end of Ibaraki Prefecture between the Tonegawa (river) and the Pacific Ocean. Later this year, Kamisu Machi and Hasaki Machi will combine to become Kamisu City.

The weather was nice, even though it had gotten down to freezing at our house the night before. We were going there to find something which I had noticed in 2003 from several thousand feet in the air as the airliner I was riding in flew along the coast before turning towards the airport at Narita. The flights from Hawaii often fly North along the coast here, then turn left toward Narita somewhere over Kashima City.
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What I had seen was a stretch of beach with twelve humongous wind turbines along it (there are two more a couple of miles further South). K had not heard about them, as they are new and just came on line last year. I love it when I, a gaijin, find something she doesn't know about.

We drove out to the beach and parked as close as could without risking getting stuck in sand. The wind turbines look like a row of sentinels standing quietly guarding the coast. I don't think even Don Quixote would challenge these, however, for their size is truly colossal. We had a ways to walk to get to them, so we combed the beach picking up shells and sand dollars as we walked and tried not to focus our attention of the piles of debris that wash ashore here each winter waiting for clean up day in May. [People, we really need to pay attention to what we "throw away". There is no such place as "away", it is all still here either in the land fill, in the ocean, on the beach, or as pollution in the air. Oh, and put the shells back when you're done looking at them. Got it? Good. End of lecture.]
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A good breeze was up and the machines were steadily turning. A family was flying kite nearby, dwarfed by the giants which rose to twice the height of their kites. It gave me some perspective.

From a distance, it is difficult to comprehend their true size, especially as in this location there is not much around to compare visually. (Like when I would I take someone on their first flight in my Cessna 172. They'd look out the window and say "Wow, this flying thing is really something, those people down there look like ants!" And I would turn and say, "Those are ants, silly, we're haven't taken off yet." ) It's all about perspective learned from experience, and it becomes meaningless when you are looking at something which is outside your experience. It is exciting to stand beneath them as the blades quietly whistle by over head.

Just how big are they? The each steel tower is about 13 feet in diameter at the base and stands 211 feet tall (314 feet to the top arc of the rotors). The rotors have 3 blades with a diameter of 203 feet. They are an awesome sight which my words and photos cannot convey well. It is easy to get bogged down in numbers when try to describe big things. Perhaps a comparison with something more familiar will help. If you stood a Boeing 777 on its tail beside one of these wind turbines (I'm not recommending that this actually be done, as the folks at the Civil Aviation Bureau would get rather upset), the nose of the 777 would just reach to 2 feet below the hub of the rotors, where the generator is located. The wing span, from tip to tip, of the Boeing would be exceeded by the diameter of the wind turbine's rotors by 12 feet. Mind boggling.

For you engineering types, the generators are rated at 1250KW, so 12 of them can produce 15 megawatts. That's enough energy to power 10,000 Japanese homes. That's 15 megawatts of energy created with a free resource that creates no greenhouse gases, has a minimal environmental impact, requires no transport, and will never run out. They were built by a German company by the name of (I am not making this up) DeWind. Ausgetzeichnet!

1 comment:

Charles said...

Living here in Hasaki, I've seen them go up in the last year or so and it's been good overall. Sometimes I run to the southern pair to get a workout. The southern ones were built in 2000 as a test I think to check the feasability of wind power in Hasaki. If it helps clean up the beaches, I'm all for it.