Hard on the heels of China and Taiwan, Japan is rapidly becoming the third largest market for offshore wind energy. The first tenders for Japanese offshore wind farms are scheduled for 2020.
Japan’s coast offers excellent potential for offshore wind energy. The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) estimates that a capacity of 10 GW could be installed by 2030, assuming quick and effective implementation of the regulatory processes for project development and the establishment of a local supply chain. At present, Japan has only 66 MW of installed capacity in offshore wind farms (December 2019), including 19 MW from five floating wind energy systems. Progress in the completion of floating wind farms is essential for the development of offshore wind energy in Japan, as the seabed off the country’s coastline falls precipitously, leaving little space for conventional foundation solutions.
New law to promote offshore renewable energies
A law came into force back in 2019 to eliminate as many of the planning uncertainties for offshore wind farms as possible. The Act on the Promotion of the Use of Marine Areas for the Development of Marine Renewable Energy Plants (or “New Act”) grants use of the areas for 30 years, attempts to eliminate conflicts of interest between the different stakeholders and introduces an auction model. A first major round of tenders for offshore wind farms in Japan is expected in the second half of 2020. The plan is to sell the generated wind power to a supply company licensed by the Japanese government under the terms of an electricity purchase agreement.
Last year, the Japanese METI (Ministry of Energy, Trade and Industry), the MLIT (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) and the Japanese Port Authority designated the first “Promotion Zones” for offshore wind energy based on the New Act. These eleven areas are off the coasts of Akita, Aomori, Nagasaki and Tokyo prefectures. The ministries have assigned special priority to two areas off Akita (Noshiro and Yurihonjo), as well as one area off Tokyo (Choshi) and Nagasaki (Goto), respectively. Preparations to examine the wind conditions and for geological surveys are already underway.
Current offshore wind projects in Japan
Consisting of two wind farms in the waters of the Noshiro and Akita ports, the Noshiro project is Japan’s first commercial offshore wind venture. The wind farm is owned by a company managed by the Marubeni Corporation, which was commissioned by the government of Akita prefecture in 2015. MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, a Danish-Japanese joint venture, submitted the winning bid to build the project. Starting 2022, 33 turbines by the Danish manufacturer Vestas will deliver a total output of 139 MW (Noshiro: 84 MW and 20 turbines; Akita: 55 MW and 13 turbines). Tohoku Electric Power will purchase the wind power yield for 20 years under the terms of a long-term electricity purchase agreement.
In the Choshi project off the Tokyo prefecture, TEPCO and the Danish wind power group Ørsted formed a joint venture to submit a bid with a capacity of several hundred megawatts in the first tender for Japanese offshore wind farms. The Yurihonjo project in the northwest of Japan will have a total capacity of 700 MW. Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy made the running in another project in the north of Akita prefecture and was selected as preferred supplier to the Obayashi Corporation for wind turbines with a total capacity of up to 455 MW.