A couple days ago I visited Ashikaga University’s Wind & Solar Park. This park showcases an assortment of different technologies that capture renewable energy. There are many different types of wind turbines built to capture wind energy – some turbine propellers built to only spin at high wind speeds and others built to spin at low wind speeds. The propeller’s axis, shape, size, and weight all influence the efficiency and output of energy. I asked an Ashikaga graduate student which turbine design is most efficient and he explained that the three-propeller design is most energy efficient. This also happens to be the most common turbine design in the United States. The three-propeller design outputs the most kilowatts compared to low wind speed. While the three-propeller design’s weight is not the lightest turbine to be built, it can safely harness energy from low and high wind speeds. A concern from the lighter one propeller and two propeller turbine designs is that it requires faster and more dangerous winds to capture energy.

Another amazing yet more simple technology I witnessed was the solar cooker. Using material such as glass or metal to reflect sunlight into a concentrated area, one is able to cook food using concentrated solar energy. Depending on cloud cover, one could possibly cook a whole chicken in a solar oven faster than an ordinary oven if the days were clear and sunny. These solar oven technologies are being gifted to undeveloped areas across the globe by non-profits; areas which do not have enough wood, coal, or gas to cook their meals. These solar ovens have influenced me to experiment making a solar powered pizza oven when I arrive back into the United States! I have already started some experimental drafts.

I’ve come to realize the omnipotent power of the sun while in Ashikaga. Most renewable energies (besides geothermal) depend upon the sun. Heat from the sun influences temperatures in the air which cause pressure differences to swirl from latitude to latitude. These pressure differences or Hadley cells circulate winds that provide energy to be captured by turbines. The water cycle is also dependent upon the sun; the evaporated water, precipitation, and melted ice all influence streaming rivers which provide energy to be harnessed by hydroelectrical technology. And even fossil fuels were influenced by the sun’s energy. Long ago, plants captured solar energy and animals ate those plants. Past organic life that relied on the sun’s energy became compacted under the earth over millennia and have formed into fossil fuels. The sun is omnipotent, so why not attempt to use renewable energy as our number one fuel source?

Yesterday, I visited the town of Nikko. It was a phenomenal place. The town reminded me of Crater Lake National Park as the town is situated beside a large lake in the mountains. The nature and landscape of Nikko was astoundingly beautiful. I think I could have stayed there a little bit longer… maybe a couple more days. Please read Doctor Ruez’s blog post about Lake Chuzenji as he explained the geology and formation of this beautiful area.

I have spent the past couple days doing many things: visiting Tokyo, hiking in the mountains, visiting volcanic hot springs, and even rooming with a Japanese family for 3 nights. If anyone has any questions, I would be glad to answer them.

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