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Japan’s offshore wind plans moving fast with TEPCO and J-Power

Japan’s offshore wind plans moving fast with TEPCO and J-Power

Japan will begin operating two offshore wind turbines this year as it tries to diversify its energy mix and develop turbine technologies.

A 2.4-megawatt turbine has been installed off Choshi in Chiba prefecture in a research project with Tokyo Electric Power Co., Masaharu Itoh, director of the new energy technology department of Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, said yesterday in an interview. NEDO also plans a 2-megawatt turbine off Kitakyushu on the southern island of Kyushu next month in a project with Electric Power Development Co., also known as J-Power.

The move comes as Japan, which lags behind countries like the U.K. and Denmark in offshore wind capacity, searches for alternatives to nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

“Onshore wind turbines are said to be proven technology” and it is therefore difficult for Japanese turbine makers to boost market share, Itoh said. “As for offshore, we still have a chance” to grab market share with large-sized turbines being developed in Japan, he said.

Japan will use the power generation data from the two turbines in different locations to help overcome technological barriers, Itoh said. The Choshi turbine will start running in early March while the Kitakyushu turbine will start generating power sometime in June or July.

The focus on offshore wind resources comes as turbine makers seek to develop bigger models more suited for deeper waters. Areva SA, a French atomic-reactor, offshore wind-turbine and biomass-plant maker, is raising the size of the rotor in its 5-megawatt model to increase output and cut costs associated with deep water developments, Jean Hubby, chief executive officer of the company’s wind unit, said in an interview earlier this month.

China plans 5,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2015. Japan, where all but two of its nuclear reactors are shut for safety assessments after the Fukushima disaster, may install as much as 7,500 megawatts of fixed offshore and 17,500 megawatts of floating offshore capacity by 2051, according to a Japan Wind Power Association target.

NEDO’s two projects each cost about 5 billion yen ($53 million), which includes the construction of a turbine and observation tower, according to Itoh.

The turbines are the first in Japan to be built more than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) from the coastline.

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