The Power of Wind
College of Engineering student evaluates the cost of wind energy in Texas
Miyako (Mia) Nakayama lived near Tokyo, Japan, in 2011 when the Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami damaged three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactive materials were released into the environment, causing widespread evacuations and one nuclear-related death.
Although the United Nations has found health and environmental risks were temporary, news outlets have reported damage estimates calculated by the Japanese government will reach $188 billion.
For Nakayama, the disaster made her question the future of her home country.
“I have been seeking renewable energy sources, which can partially replace the nuclear power plant in Japan, ever since I experienced the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster,” Nakayama said. “As I researched many types of renewable energy sources, I found that wind energy is the most promising technology due to the amount of power it can produce and cost-effectiveness.”
Nakayama, a senior who graduated in December in mechanical engineering, grew up in the Chiba Prefecture in Japan, which is about a 10-minute train ride from Tokyo and about 150 miles from Fukushima.
The 27-year-old graduated with a degree in business with a marketing emphasis from Hosei University in Tokyo. But she wanted to take her education further and decided to pursue a second degree.
“My dream was to do interdisciplinary work that combines business and technology,” Nakayama said.
Nakayama found herself poring over vast amounts of literature to better understand wind as a renewable energy source and to learn whether onshore or offshore wind turbines were more efficient.
She worked with Associate Professor Tao Xing in the College of Engineering as a mentor on her research.
Wanting to use a real-world simulation, Nakayama searched for a location that could support onshore and offshore wind turbines. She wanted to compare wind production between locations with approximately the same wind availability.
“To establish a fair comparison between onshore and offshore wind turbines, I had to choose the state that had the most available windy land,” Nakayama said. “I chose the state of Texas.”
For her comparisons, Nakayama analyzed data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and wind turbine manufacturers to get information such as wind speeds found across Texas and the capabilities of wind turbines.
She found offshore wind turbines produce more power but are not as cost-effective as onshore wind farms.
"I have been seeking renewable energy sources, which can partially replace the nuclear power plant in Japan, ever since I experienced the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster." Miyako Nakayama, mechanical engineering undergraduate
“This research can help in the preliminary decision-making process for businesses and governments installing wind turbines,” Nakayama said.
Nakayama has a job offer with Yanmar, a company located in Osaka, Japan, that makes engines for industrial purposes such as boats and agriculture equipment. After training with the company for six months, she will work in a material procurement position.
“When you find research you are interested in, just do it, just try,” Nakayama said. “Be open-minded and just do it.”
Mia Nakayama is an OUR Travel Grant award recipient.
Article by Jaime Ellis, a senior from Boise majoring in journalism with a minor in animal science.
Photos by Cody Allred, a sophomore from Council studying public relations.
Published in March 2019.