Japan’s efforts over the past ten years have fallen behind those of other countries that have been actively developing and promoting various frameworks for offshore wind power. In more recent times, however, there have been gradual moves to promote this power source, including the establishment of the Act on Promoting the Utilization of Sea Areas for the Development of Marine Renewable Energy Power Generation Facilities (Marine Renewable Energy Utilization Act, 2019)3. Under this legislation, general sea areas that meet various requirements for offshore wind power projects may be designated as Promotion Zones, which operators can occupy for up to 30 years. In July 2019, the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy and the Ports and Harbours Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism identified 11 sea areas they considered to have progressed to a certain level of preparations. They determined that four of those sea areas were promising and would begin organizing councils for the coordination of stakeholders and taking other required action for those four areas4 (Figure 1) 5. Once these areas have been formally designated as Promotion Zones, developers will be selected through a public tender process.
*The following four areas have made progress in developing an environment for starting projects, e.g., obtaining consent from the local community; Therefore, preparations for organizing councils and for government-led wind-conditions and geological surveys will begin immediately.
・Sea area offshore Noshiro City, Mitane Town and Oga City, Akita Prefecture
・Sea area offshore Yurihonjo City, Akita Prefecture (northern and southern sides of the prefecture)
・Sea area offshore Choshi City, Chiba Prefecture
・Sea area offshore Goto City, Nagasaki Prefecture
The current situation regarding these four promising areas is as follows:
On December 27, 2019, the sea area offshore Goto City, Nagasaki Prefecture became the first of the four areas to be designated as a Promotion Zone6. Toda Corporation had previously undergone the Ministry of the Environment’s Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) program in the near vicinity before relocating the turbine and commencing commercial operation of in April 2016 (The single 2MW turbine built by Hitachi, Ltd. who announced its withdrawal from the manufacture of turbines on January 25, 2019) 7, 8. Because the subject of this public tender is floating offshore wind power, the operator selection process has no element of cost competition during bidding due to the fixed price of 36 yen/kWh9, and preference is given to previous operational experience, preceding operators are seen as having an advantage in the public tender process.
Akita Prefecture, which is enthusiastic about the introduction of offshore wind power, has two promising areas. Several developers have been competing in the sea area offshore Noshiro City, Mitane Town and Oga City for some time. The Northern Akita Offshore Wind Farm Project LLC comprises Obayashi Corporation as the representative member, with the addition of Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. and Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc., as executive members10. The scale of the project is a maximum output of 455 MW from a maximum of 120 turbines. In terms of its environmental impact assessment, a primary environmental impact consideration was published in March 2016, followed by a draft of the assessment method in June 2016, and a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in November 201911. Sumitomo Corporation is also proceeding with plans for a project with a maximum output of 540 MW, releasing a primary environmental impact consideration in July 201912. In May 2020, Sumitomo Corporation announced to form a consortium with TEPCO Renewable Power Inc. and six other companies13. Chubu Electric Power Company, Inc. and Mitsubishi Corporation Power Ltd. also released a primary environmental impact consideration for an environmental impact assessment for this area in June 2020 (maximum output 480 MW)14.
In the other Akita area, the sea area offshore Yurihonjo City, the preceding operator, Akita Yurihonjo Offshore Wind Farm Project LLC, comprising RENOVA, Inc., Cosmo Eco Power Co., Ltd., JR-EAST Energy Development Co., Ltd., and Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc., is pursuing a project15. The scale of the project is a maximum output of 1,000 MW from a maximum of 140 turbines. In terms of environmental impact assessment, a primary environmental impact consideration was published in May 2017, followed by a draft of the assessment method in November 2017, and a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in October 201916. It has also been reported that RWE Renewables Japan G.K., a Japanese subsidiary of a major German power company, and Kyuden Mirai Energy Company, Inc., a subsidiary of Kyushu Electric Power Co., Inc., are considering a joint venture project17. Venti Japan Inc., Chubu Electric Power Company, Inc., and Mitsubishi Corporation Power Ltd. are also known to be considering a project in this area18.
On the Pacific Ocean side, the sea area offshore Choshi City, Chiba Prefecture has also been cited as a promising area. In January 2019, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. and Ørsted A/S, concluded a MOU on cooperation and in March 2020 announced an agreement to establish a joint venture company, Choshi Offshore Wind Farm K.K., and would proceed with development toward a joint bid in a public tender in Japan's Choshi offshore promotion area19. The scale of this project is a maximum output of 370 MW(maximum of 72 x 5.2 MW turbines – maximum of 31 x 12 MW turbines) 20. Noted that the TEPCO Group has experience in a verification trial offshore Choshi, conducted jointly with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)21.
On June 16, 2020, a draft proposal for Promotion Zone designation was published for inspection regarding the three areas other than the sea area offshore Goto City in Nagasaki Prefecture, which has already been designated22. On July 3, 2020, the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy and the Ports and Harbours Bureau of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism identified ten areas considered to have progressed to a certain level of preparations as candidates for designation as Promotion Zones in the current fiscal year. Of those ten areas, four areas, namely, the Sea of Japan offshore Aomori Prefecture (northern side of the prefecture), the Sea of Japan offshore Aomori Prefecture (southern side of the prefecture), the sea area offshore Happo Town and Noshiro City, Akita Prefecture, and the sea area offshore Eno Island, Saikai City, Nagasaki Prefecture, were announced as promising areas23. There has since been a variety of activity aimed at accelerating the commercialization of wind power in these areas.
In this fiscal year, the first developers are scheduled to be selected by public tender under the Marine Renewable Energy Utilization Act, and a second-round public tender has also started for the Promotion Zones. Developers submitting bids will be assessed on factors concerning price and feasibility and will be given a score out of 120. In the selection, it is hoped that fairness between developers will be ensured and that there will be an accumulation of examples that take future expansion into consideration.
As an industry-wide commitment, the wind power industry has established the Japan Offshore Wind Task Force to bring a wealth of knowledge to Japan from overseas and to promote the expansion of the offshore wind power business24. In addition, the Public-Private Council on Enhancement of Industrial Competitiveness for Offshore Wind Power has been established, emulating similar moves in Europe. This action is leading the public and private sectors to work together to expand the industry by identifying the challenges involved in the development of offshore wind power projects and clarifying the policies needed25.
Offshore wind power has exceptionally high domestic potential compared to Japan's electricity demand, making it an important energy source for decarbonization in Japan. In addition, given the large scale of projects and the diverse range of related industries involved, it will be necessary to attract both domestic and foreign investment to grow the industry into a new leading industry in Japan. The Renewable Energy Institute will make recommendations for the expansion of and support for this movement, while monitoring the various developments in the industry, as it has done in this article.