“Offshore wind power generation” Progress since enforcement of the new law

“Offshore wind power generation” Progress since enforcement of the new law

Wind power generation in Japan is expected to spread with 10,000 megawatt generation forecasted to be in the energy mix in 2030. This will account for 1.7% of total electric power sources in that year. Following enforcement of the new law in April, 2019, movement toward the expansion of offshore wind power generation started to advance. In this article, we will explain the progress of offshore wind power generation in Japan since enforcement of the law.

New law expected to advance offshore wind power generation

Wind power accounts for 0.7% of total electricity power sources in Japan (FY2018 preliminary figure). Wind power has spread widely across Europe where it is considered a promising source of power. On the contrary, in Japan, wind power generation has stalled. This has been due to various challenges. In the meantime, photovoltaic generation has made progress in Japan. One of the difficulties with wind power generation in Japan is the country’s mountainous topography. This limits the amount of space available for turbines. Then, what about “offshore wind power generation” with turbines installed on the surface of the sea? Challenges that potential offshore wind power projects face include rules for the exclusive use of marine areas, and coordination with the existing users such as fishermen and maritime transporters.

The “Act on Promoting Utilization of Sea Areas for Development of Power Generation Facilities Using Maritime Renewable Energy Resources” (hereinafter referred to as the “Act”) was enforced in April, 2019, so that those challenges could be addressed properly. Potential projects are now expected to advance through the regulated coordination process under the Act. The process toward the development of offshore wind power generation is outlined below.

The process from the selection of areas to the start of development

Pursuant to the Act, the following procedures are to be followed toward the development of offshore wind power generation.

As outlined in the above illustration, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) designate “promotion areas” suitable to offshore wind power generation. The designation is made about once a year. The government then invites applications from the public for each of the designated areas, and the most suitable applicant is nominated with its business plan. The successful applicant proceeds to the next steps such as obtaining “permission for exclusive use” of the designated area, and gaining “approval for FIT-based arrangement” for electricity generated by renewables to be purchased at pre-determined prices.

“Promotion areas” will be designated if the areas are considered to meet six criteria which include the natural environment, e.g. wind conditions and the depth of the sea.

Map showing wind conditions on the marine areas surrounding Japan(indicated on NEDO’s “NeoWins” at 100 meters above sea level)
This map shows Map showing wind conditions on the marine areas surrounding Japan

Enlarged View

In addition to those natural conditions, comprehensive considerations are to be given to potential effects on the maritime movements and fisheries around the marine area, as well as the amount of electricity expected to be generated.

In July 2019, eleven sea areas with certain preparations in progress, were selected as potential areas for future designation as “areas for promotion”. Out of those eleven, four areas listed below were considered “potential areas” particularly for which immediate actions were to be taken such as the establishment of council.

リストアイコン Area off the coast of Noshiro City, Mitane Town and Oga City, Akita Prefecture
リストアイコン Area off the coast of Yurihonjo City, Akita Prefecture (northern and southern sides)
リストアイコン Area off the coast of Choshi City, Chiba Prefecture
リストアイコン Area off the coast of Goto City, Nagasaki Prefecture

“Council” to be established involving stakeholders

In the above areas, the government is conducting necessary surveys of wind conditions, geological features, maritime movements, etc. Meetings of the “consultative committee” are being held involving interested parties such as the government, municipalities and existing users of the sea areas.

Offshore wind power generation may not only cause effects on fisheries and other such industries but it may also bring large influence on the local economy due to the project size requiring a large amount of building materials. Accordingly, it is necessary to give opportunities for stakeholders to discuss and reach a consensus through the “council” before implementing the project.

In each of the four areas, one or two meetings have been held since October, 2019. For instance, the council for the area off the coast of Yurihonjo City, Akita Prefecture, held its first meeting on October 8, which was attended by METI, MLIT, MAFF and other related government agencies, local governments (prefecture/city), fishermen’s associations, passenger boat operators, and related experts. At the meeting, it was reported that concerns were raised by locals about possible adverse effects such as noises emitted by the generation facilities. While there were favorable opinions for wind power generation to be operated in harmony with fisheries, there was also a concern about offshore wind being vulnerable to lightning.

At the council of the other areas, various opinions were expressed. Some parties takes the view that the project may be of benefit to local industries and will increase employment. Others raised concerns about effects by natural disasters such as typhoons, and impacts on the marine environment and fishing resources.

It is important to continue discussions and think together.

After consensus is finally reached among stakeholders as a result of those discussions, proposed designation of the area will be made public (public notification). The proposal will be on public display during a certain period under the Act so that anyone can inspect it (public inspection) and stakeholders can submit their opinions. Those opinions will be considered together with intentions of related administrative agencies, the prefectural government and council. And then, the designation of the promotion area will officially be made.

As explained above, opportunities are adequately given to interested parties for submitting their opinions during the process of implementation of a wind power generation project. Materials used at the council are made public together with the contents of discussions, on the websites of the agency for Natural Resources and Energy, and the Ports and Harbours Bureau of MLIT. Meetings of the council are open to the public and the press.

It is advisable for every one of us to continue thinking how to utilize offshore wind power generation in Japan, taking such information as described above into account.

Division in charge

About the article

New and Renewable Energy Division, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Department

About Special Contents

Research and Public Relations Office, Policy Planning and Coordination Division, Commissioner's Secretariat

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