Japanese industrial consortium plans 300MW

€1.2bn investment in offshore wind on horizon

A private sector consortium has been created with plans to invest about €1.2bn in offshore wind in Japanese waters. Industrial and engineering corporation Hitachi Zosen Corporation (Hitz) leads the group, which aims to develop 300MW in offshore capacity over the next ten years.

Hitz was a major shipbuilding firm until spinning off its shipping business in 2002 in the face of growing competition. While sharing some historical roots with global brand, Hitachi Ltd, the two companies are separate and should not be confused. Hitachi Ltd is also active in the wind energy sector, having announced in March the takeover of Fuji Heavy Industries’ wind turbine business.

The six other members of the Hitz-led consortium are: Toshiba, JFE Steel, the Japan Weather Association, Sumitomo Electric Industries, Toa, and Toyo Construction.

Meteorological and financial assessments will be the consortium’s focus over the coming months, in the run-up to a decision about whether to proceed with investment in an offshore wind project. If consortium members agree to invest, they may initially install several bottom-fixed turbines with capacities up to 7.5MW. Floating technology has not been ruled out, though, says Hitz.

Division of responsibilities within the consortium has been outlined. Hitz will be responsible for ocean-based structures and Toshiba for turbines, while JFE will supply steel. Sumitomo Electric will be responsible for an undersea transmission cable. A special purpose company will be established to raise project finance.

"One of the major features of this project is that it is not premised on government subsidies," said Professor Chuichi Arakawa, of the University of Tokyo’s department of mechanical engineering. Thus far, offshore wind development in Japan has been led by central government, with the finance ministry funding an ambitious floating trial off the Fukushima coast, and the environment ministry funding a smaller floating project in the Goto Islands.

Japan’s fishing industry is widely seen as a potential threat to offshore wind development. "The Hitz consortium is exciting," said Per Christer Lund, science and technology advisor at the Norwegian Embassy in Tokyo. "This industry-driven consortium will have a better chance of realising offshore wind projects than the government-driven Fukushima project, because they have done proper stakeholder management with fishermen."

Japan’s recently-introduced feed in tariff provides a 23.10yen per kW/h (€0.23) incentive for "big" wind over 20 years.

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