Japan is taking significant steps to establish itself as a major player in the global offshore wind energy sector, joining the ranks of China and the United Kingdom. The country is committed to transitioning to a zero-emission economy while ensuring energy security. Japanese companies currently hold offshore wind assets in various countries, including Taiwan, Belgium, and the UK. However, Japan is yet to develop large-scale wind farms within its own shores.
Impressive Targets for Offshore Wind Capacity
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) of Japan have recently concluded the acceptance of proposals for the second round of offshore wind tenders. These tenders aim to build a capacity of 1.8 gigawatts (GW) across four designated areas.
As of 2022, Japan’s offshore wind capacity stood at 136 megawatts (MW), significantly lower than the nearly 14 GW in the UK and 31 GW in China, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. However, Japan has ambitious goals for the future. By 2030, the country aims to achieve 10 GW of offshore wind capacity and plans to have a staggering 45 GW operational by 2040. These targets align with Japan’s vision of having renewable energy contribute 36% to 38% of its electricity mix by the end of the decade. Furthermore, Japan has set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Pioneering Offshore Wind Operations
In late 2022 and early 2023, a consortium led by Marubeni (8002.T) launched Japan’s first large-scale commercial offshore wind operations at Noshiro Port (84 MW) and Akita Port (55 MW). These projects were initially secured through the feed-in tariff program for renewable energy. However, in 2019, the government implemented a new law to enhance the development of offshore wind farms beyond port areas, introducing a public auction scheme.
MHI Vestas Offshore Wind, a joint venture between Danish manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS.CO) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T), supplied bottom-fixed turbines for Marubeni’s offshore wind farms.
First and Second Round of Auctions
In 2021, a consortium led by Mitsubishi (8058.T) secured all three offshore wind farm auctions in Akita and Chiba prefectures during the first round. These projects have a combined capacity of 1.7 GW and are set to start operating between 2028 and 2030. The wind turbines, with a capacity of 13 MW each, will be manufactured by General Electric (GE.N) and assembled and maintained by Toshiba.
The second round of auctions, which concluded on June 30, focused on another 1.8 GW of capacity. The winners will be announced by the end of March 2024, and potentially as early as December. The auction covered four areas, all featuring bottom-fixed structures:
- Happo Town and Noshiro City in Akita Prefecture (356 MW)
- Oga City, Katagami City, and Akita City in Akita Prefecture (336 MW)
- Murakami City and Tainai City in Niigata Prefecture (700 MW)
- Enoshima, Saikai City in Nagasaki Prefecture (424 MW)
Companies participating in the auctions are not permitted to disclose their bidding intentions under the revised rules.
Foreign Companies and the Future of Offshore Wind in Japan
Foreign companies interested in entering Japan’s offshore wind market are likely to seek partnerships with local Japanese entities. This collaboration is crucial for navigating the complexities of engaging with local authorities, fishermen, and residents. In the past, opposition from these stakeholders has resulted in the cancellation of certain wind power projects. Recognizing the need for local involvement, the United Kingdom has expressed its willingness to contribute to the development of Japan’s offshore wind power sector. Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps stated that the UK is open to various options, including the participation of British energy companies, providing financing, and offering insurance.
During the first round of auctions, several foreign companies, including Denmark’s Orsted (ORSTED.CO), Germany’s RWE (RWEG.DE), and Norway’s Equinor (EQNR.OL), expressed their interest in entering the Japanese market. These companies recognize the immense potential for offshore wind energy in Japan and the opportunities it presents for sustainable growth.
Floating Offshore Wind Power and Japan’s Roadmap
In 2021, the Japanese government selected a consortium led by Toda Corporation to construct the Goto floating offshore wind farm in Nagasaki prefecture. This project, with a capacity of 16.8 MW, was the sole bidder in a public auction specifically for a smaller-scale initiative. Japan is actively working towards creating a comprehensive roadmap for the development of floating offshore wind power by March 2024. This roadmap will outline the strategies and policies necessary to harness the potential of floating wind farms, which can be deployed in deeper waters and offer new opportunities for renewable energy generation.
Japan’s Ambitious Offshore Wind Goals
Japan’s commitment to offshore wind energy reflects its determination to transition to a sustainable and carbon-neutral future. By setting ambitious targets for offshore wind capacity and actively promoting the development of wind farms, Japan aims to become a leading global producer of clean energy. Through public auctions and partnerships with domestic and foreign companies, Japan is driving the growth of its offshore wind sector.
With plans to increase its offshore wind capacity to 10 GW by 2030 and a long-term vision of 45 GW operational by 2040, Japan is positioning itself at the forefront of the renewable energy revolution. By embracing offshore wind power, Japan can not only reduce its reliance on fossil fuels but also achieve a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The country’s efforts in offshore wind energy production will contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future, bringing Japan closer to its goal of becoming a major player in the global renewable energy market.
In conclusion, Japan’s determination to become a major offshore wind energy producer is evident through its targets, auction schemes, and partnerships. By leveraging its expertise, collaborating with foreign companies, and developing floating offshore wind technologies, Japan is paving the way for a greener and more sustainable future. As the nation progresses towards its renewable energy goals, the world will be closely watching Japan’s journey to becoming a leading global force in offshore wind power production.