JAPAN’S PILOT OFFSHORE WIND FARM WILL DEPLOY FIRST WIND TURBINE IN 2014
BY STAS MARGARONIS, RBTUS
Japan will deploy its first floating wind turbines as part of a larger offshore wind farm to be developed off the coast of Fukushima in 2014, according to a wind energy consultant.
Annette Bossler, managing director at Main(e) International Consulting told participants at a Maine Ocean and Wind Energy Initiative webinar that two floating wind turbines will be deployed as part of the first phase of the Fukushima project.
A Power Purchase Agreement with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will contract for the Fukushima wind power generated by the project.
The Fukushima pilot project is located about 150 miles from Tokyo. A large wind farm could supply power to this major population area.
Japanese engineers will be testing three different designs to see which works best in high wind and sea state conditions.
Bossler says that Japan has yet to set a feed in tariff (FIT) for offshore wind which is likely to be announced in spring 2014. The FIT offers long-term contracts to renewable energy producers, typically based on the cost of generation of each technology. The existing FIT, introduced in July 2012 is 23 yen per kWh (kilowatt per hour) for onshore wind. For ocean energy such as tidal, wave and ocean current power, Japan is anticipating a cost target of 40 yen per kWh.
Currently an average Japanese household pays 30-40 yen per kilowatt hour for electricity. This is a 30% increase over recent years due to the shutdown of most of the country’s nuclear power plants. Japan curtailed its nuclear power industry after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami incapacitated Fukushima nuclear power plants and raised safety concerns.
The country is now looking to renewable energy to replace the power generated by the nuclear power industry. While the major focus is currently on solar, offshore wind can become a major power resource once the floating foundation technology is available for large scale deployment.
Marubeni Corp., Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Japan Marine United and Hitachi are among developers erecting the 16-megawatt pilot plant off the coast of Fukushima. The wind farm may expand to 1,000 megawatts, according to Japan’s trade ministry.
Marubeni is an investor in the U.S. Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC). AWC seeks to build an offshore transmission line off the coast of New Jersey that may eventually link up with other Atlantic coast states including Maryland and Virginia. The project hopes to attract as many as seven offshore wind farms providing wind power to the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States
The Fukushima consortium says the project will have the following characteristics:
*Total estimated Cost = US $189M
*Japanese government support = US$123M
*Two wind turbines generating 7 MW each
*One wind turbine generating 2 MW
*Average wind speed at hub height is 7 meters
*Wind farm location is 20 kilometers off the Fukushima coast
*Two wind turbines will be semi-submersible and one will be an advanced spar (a buoy-based turbine)
*Hitachi will provide the substation which will be deployed on a floating spar by Japan Marine United that will connect power generation to the grid on land
Builders are from the Japanese shipbuilding industry and include: Japan Marine United (formerly IHI), Mitsui and Mitsubishi. The wind turbines themselves will be built by Hitachi and Mitsubishi.
Mitsui, which will build a 2 MW semi-submersible foundation with a Hitachi wind turbine is reportedly in merger talks with Kawasaki due to Japan’s continued loss in shipbuilding market share to South Korea and China.
The Financial Times report says the Mitsui shipbuilding division could be folded into the more diversified Kawasaki Group that builds everything from ships to bullet trains.
Bossler noted that the Japanese fishing industry had been opposed to offshore wind development until the nuclear power accident caused the Japanese government to focus on offshore wind development.
The industry is still reluctant to lose its fishing grounds to wind farms but the national emergency requiring new power generation is causing a more cooperative approach.
The Japanese government wants to develop a strong domestic power generation base and expects to export floating wind turbine technology to markets such as North America and Europe at a later date.
 MIT Technology Review, January 17, 2013