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The answer is blowin' in the wind: turbines blamed for Japan city's TV signal troubles

Some of the wind farms constructed in a coastal part of a protected forest in the city of Katagami, Akita Prefecture, are seen on Feb. 19, 2020. (Mainichi/Shun Kawaguchi)

AKITA -- Residents of this northeastern Japan prefecture have been struggling with poor television service of late, with residents of the city of Katagami under particular difficulty when it comes to getting reception on the box.

The disruption is believed to have blown in from an unexpected source: wind farms. So far, firms in charge of local wind power facilities have received over 1,700 enquiries about the issue, and work to try and reduce the disruptions has been expedited. But there are claims the problem will spread if offshore wind farms earmarked for development across the prefecture go ahead as planned.

Reports of television disruptions first started to emerge in Katagami in summer 2019. Wind turbines have been constructed since 2017 at a prefectural-protected forest that runs along the Sea of Japan coast near to the city. Now, they stretch over some 10 kilometers along the shore.

Ownership of the turbines is split; the 17 situated north of the town's Detohama swimming beach are run by Akita-based A-Wind Energy, while the 22 located south of the leisure facility are operated by Katagami-based Akita Katagami Wind Farm Godo Gaisha. Potential disruptions to television signals were not included among the environmental considerations investigated ahead of the turbines' construction, but both firms have reportedly done their own evaluations ahead of construction.

Though it is possible that the poor reception is caused by aging receivers and other equipment, instances of disruption are concentrated within the limits of Katagami. But because the affected area receives its signal from the Omoriyama transmitting station, which is divided from the town by the turbines, the influence of the wind farms apparently can't be rejected.

In response to inquiries by each household in the area, both companies have shouldered costs for works to adjust antennae and install signal boosters, among other measures. The response is being taken quickly, and all works are expected to be completed by the end of March.

But one woman, 49, who lives in a home built just five years ago in the Tenno district, reported that images on her TV screen often stop or become warped, and that if she doesn't get her receiver moved higher then she won't get a proper signal. Up until the middle of February, multiple workers visited the property, but she said that she's unsure about whether to proceed with the measures. "If they damage the roof, and the picture is still bad after that, I don't know what I'll do," she said.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications' Tohoku Bureau of Telecommunications, similar disruptions could be caused by offshore wind farms currently being developed in the prefecture.

The sea off of the cities of Katagami and Yurihonjo is deemed a "promising region" in the national government's promotional plans for the development of wind farms. But while plans for wind turbines in these offshore areas are proceeding, there are reportedly concerns that the initiatives will reflect electric waves and cause disruptions to receivers, and that the city of Nikaho, and the southern parts of the city of Oga, both located in a straight line from the Omoriyama transmitting station, could also experience issues.

A head at the prefecture's natural resources and energy production division said, "I can't say specifically without a plan for wind turbine placement," but they continued, "It is necessary for businesses running these initiatives to make considerations, such as conducting prior investigations."

(Japanese original by Shun Kawaguchi, Akita Bureau)

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