Call for stronger turbine technology -- Typhoons and lightning

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Typhoons and lightning are proving to be country specific obstacles to wind power development in Japan. Again in 2004, blades failed after being hit by high winds or after lightning strikes. The opinion of Japanese wind industry experts is that wind turbine technology is not being designed with the specifics of the Japanese climate in mind.

According to Izumi Ushiyama of the Japan Wind Energy Association (JWEA), 90% of wind turbines used in Japan are imported and most of them are designed to survive in wind speeds of up to 60 m/s. In the typhoons that swept Okinawa in 2003, winds blew at 80 m/s. At JWEA's annual conference in November, frequent reference was made to the 2003 typhoons which seriously damaged three NEG Micon turbines and pulled up the concrete foundation of an Enercon machine. Speakers warned the conference's 300 delegates that as the effects of climate change increase, more typhoons are expected. In September, Okinawa was battered by the country's fourth strongest typhoon ever.

The Japanese government's New Energy Development Organisation is supporting research into how to protect wind plant from both typhoons and lightning. Severe lightning storms are typical across Japan in the winter.

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