Fukushima Forward timeline

How the floating wind project took shape.

Fukushima Forward is the brainchild of Takeshi Ishihara, a professor in the University of Tokyo’s civil engineering department. For most of the 1990s, he studied wind-resistant building design as a researcher at construction firm Shimizu. He made the jump to academia in 2000 and started measuring wind speeds off eastern Japan, sharing the data with the government.

About a decade ago, Beijing-born Ishihara started considering the possibility of building floating wind farms in Japan. In the mid-2000s, he installed an anemometer at a natural-gas platform 37km off the coast of Fukushima. Over the course of two years, he discovered that offshore wind speeds in the area were about 1.7 times higher than onshore.

“Many people thought that there was no wind in the area, and onshore that’s true, the wind conditions are not so good,” Ishihara says. “So this data was important for negotiating with the government and industry.”

The government continued to drag its feet on offshore wind until the 2011 tsunami and nuclear crisis forced its hand. With all of Japan’s 50 nuclear plants currently shut down in response to public fears about nuclear energy, the METI in late 2011 finally accepted a proposal from Ishihara to start developing a demonstration project. By November 2013, the first turbine was pumping electricity into the Fukushima grid.