Japan will accelerate offshore wind energy projects with its recent approval of four additional offshore wind farm sites.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism said they designated four areas for promoting offshore wind energy last week: the sea area offshore Noshiro city, Mitane town and Oga city, in Akita Prefecture; the area offshore Yurihonjo city, also in Akita Prefecture (northern and southern sides); and the area offshore Choshi city, in Chiba Prefecture.
Japan enacted its Offshore Renewable Energy Act in 2018 to boost the country’s offshore wind energy. Under the Act, the government designated the sea area offshore Goto city, in Nagasaki Prefecture, as the first promotion area last December.
“The designation of promotion areas is the first official step to building an offshore wind energy project under the Offshore Renewable Energy Act,” Dan Matsuda, of counsel at DLA Piper Tokyo Partnership, told Infrastructure Investor.
Japan Wind Power Association, a group of wind power developers and operators, expects the government to develop 10GW of offshore wind power generation by 2030, increasing it to 30-45GW by 2040 and 90GW by 2050, to expand the market and attract more investment.
The promotion areas will take around five years to start commercial operation, Matsuda said.
“Under the Offshore Renewable Energy Act, the Japanese government designates one or more promotion areas in each year. The government [then] conducts a public auction to select a project developer, and the selected project developer for each promotion area needs to obtain FiT [feed-in tariff] approval and be granted the permit to use the relevant sea area exclusively for a certain period, for example, up to 30 years,” he noted.
However, Japan is facing hurdles to boost offshore wind energy capacity, Matsuda said.
“To be selected as a promotion area, [gaining] the consensus of the local community is one important factor. Japan is one of the [world’s premier] fishing countries, and [gaining] the understanding/consensus from people in local fishing industries is a practical barrier,” he noted.
Securing grid capacity is another obstacle, Matsuda explained. While the legal separation of the power transmission/distribution sector completed in April helps promote competition in the market – and could enhance more flexible utilisation of grid capacity – Matsuda noted there still needs to be a system for sharing the cost of transmission networks in Japan.
Japan aims to increase the share of wind in the energy mix from 0.7 percent to 1.7 percent by 2030. According to METI, wind energy generated 3.9 GW as of 2018. In the same year, Japan’s power generation sources included natural gas (38.4 percent), coal (31.2 percent), renewables (16.9 percent), nuclear (6.2 percent) and oil and others (7.3 percent). The country aims to raise renewables’ share of the energy mix to 22-24 percent by 2030.