Japan has nearly completed construction on the first of 140 floating windmills that will eventually provide a safer alternative to its nuclear energy infrastructure. When switched on next week, the 350 foot tall windmill floating just 12 miles from the severely damaged and leaking Fukushima nuclear reactors will be generate enough electricity to power 1,700 homes.

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Almost entirely dependent on nuclear power just two years ago, the Japanese government is making a big push to develop clean and renewable energy. The windmill is just one of a planned 140 floating wind turbines to be built in a 22 billion yen, or $226 million project. By 2020 the offshore project hopes to generate over one gigawatt of electricity, which is equivalent to the power generated by a single nuclear reactor.

The Japanese windmills are different than other offshore turbines since they rest on giant floating platforms anchored to the seabed. The construction site of older windmills in other countries have always been relegated to shallow waterbeds because they need to be fixed onto the seabed, which is often buried deep below water around Japan. Floating platforms, however, could completely remove this restriction.

Researchers at the Tokyo University also ran computer simulations that determined harnessing wind in deeper waters off Japan could generate as much as 1,570 gigawatts of electricity. That’s eight times the current capacity of all of Japan’s power companies combined, which is hopeful, but it’s prohibitively expensive to build windmills further out at sea.

Japan is introducing other sources of renewable energy as well. Last June, he country broke ground on an incentive program to diversify its energy sources, which has already realized an additional 3.6 gigawatts of capacity.

Via NY Times