Fukushima floating trial to launch summer 2013

First phase will feature 2MW turbine, with 7MW to come

Japan’s second trial of offshore wind floating technology is likely to go ahead this summer,* with a 2MW turbine produced by Fuji Heavy Industries to be erected about 20km off the Fukushima coast, the very area devastated by last year’s earthquake-induced tsunami.

The aim of the initial, single turbine phase of the project will be to gather data, experiment with floating substations, and to test advanced materials, including new forms of steel that are easier to solder, explained Takeshi Ishihara, professor of engineering at the University of Tokyo, speaking with Windpower Offshore.

Ishihara said he expects the 2MW turbine to be in place by August*, in an area where sea depths range from 100-200m and where wind speeds average 7.4m/second.

Known as the Fukushima Floating offshore Wind Farm Demonstration – or Forward – the project is being funded by the Japanese ministry of trade, economy and industry.

A second phase will feature two 7MW turbines, currently being developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. One is expected to be an hydraulic drive machine, while the other may be a downwind design. Ishihara hopes the demonstration project will transition into a commercial division from around 2016.

A consortium of ten companies will contribute to the Forward project. In addition to Mitsubishi, there are other well-known Japanese names: Marubeni, Nippon Steel, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding. Ishihara is the project’s technical advisor, focusing on wind measurement and prediction technology.

Resistance to the project by the fishing industry is a risk, and discusssions with fishermen have already begun.

Another floating offshore wind demonstration is going ahead in the Goto islands. Funded by the environment ministry, it also features a single, initial turbine, but with just 100kW capacity. The turbine is expected to be installed this month.

Japan urgently needs new sources of electricity generating capacity. Since last year’s tsunami, electricity shortages have been common and the country’s prime minister recently announced the re-commissioning of a nuclear power station in Fukui prefecture in order to meet demand during what is forecast to be a hot summer.


*Since publishing this article, Windpower Offshore has confirmed that the 2MW floating turbine - and a separate floating substation - will be erected next year by August 2013, and not this summer, as originally reported.

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