Efforts Underway in Japan to Improve Resilience of Wind Turbines


Given the recurring seasonal threat of cyclones for many Pacific Island Countries, and the challenge of delivering reliable renewable electricity across the region, when power is needed most, it is often most difficult to provide. Challenergy, a Tokyo-based firm, has designed and built a wind turbine specifically engineered to operate in typhoon-prone areas, inspired by the 2011 Tōhoku (or Sendai) earthquake. 

This earthquake resulted in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Before 2011, 54 nuclear reactors provided around 30% of Japan’s electricity, but now, 24 of Japan’s 33 reactors remain switched off, which has led to increased emissions relative to energy intensity across the nation. As of 2017, 87.4% of Japan's energy consumption comes from fossil fuels, and the opportunity for wind energy has not been previously explored and utilized to its full potential. This is due in no small part to the threat posed by Typhoons upon the current generation of turbine designs.

Challenergy's design is on a vertical axis, with cylinders in place of blades, and which make use of a physics phenomenon known as the Magnus effect, much like the Flettner rotor systems gaining prominence on ships trialling rotor systems through their operations in Europe.


Challenergy’s wind turbine uses motors that first spin its three cylinders. As these cylinders spin, they generate the Magnus effect, as they are placed in air flow – like a ball spinning in the air – and this rotates the turbine. The turbine is designed such that it will only rotate if these cylinders are spinning and the wind is blowing. While the motors require an energy input to spin, this is only up to approximately 10% of the power generated by the turbine, according to Challenergy

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