Slow progress in finalising financial incentives, combined with the imminent introduction of environmental planning regulations, means new onshore wind farms are unlikely in the near term. It is becoming increasingly clear that Japan's longer-term wind energy ambitions lie offshore, particularly in the form of nascent floating turbine technology.
The national government last year confirmed a feed-in tariff (FIT) but has yet to issue rates and terms. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) committee, has assumed foundation-based offshore wind costs of Yen9.4-23.1 ($0.12-0.29) per kilowatt hour over 20 years. However, offshore is unlikely to be included in the first round of FIT rates.
According to a proposal submitted to the government by the Japan Wind Power Association (JWPA), wind power should supply 10% of the country's electricity demand by 2050, with an installed capacity of 11.1GW by 2020, mostly onshore. By 2050, wind capacity is earmarked to reach 50GW, with onshore accounting for 25GW, foundation offshore 7.5GW and floating offshore 17.5GW. JWPA foresees foundation-based offshore wind farms coming online after 2015, with floating offshore projects installed after 2020.
The ambition to focus on floating turbine technology is driven by the fact that most of the country's offshore resource is located in deep waters. A 100kW floating demonstration turbine, initiated by the environment ministry, was unveiled last year. A 2MW turbine will be added this year. Another demonstration project, announced by METI, will be developed in stages off the coast of Fukushima, comprising a 2MW turbine on a semi-submerged floating structure in 2013, followed by a 7MW turbine in a semi-submerged structure in 2014 and a 7MW fully submerged turbine in 2015.
METI is also funding the installation this year of a foundation-based 2.4MW turbine at Choshi and a 2MW turbine on a hybrid jacket foundation - a steel jacket integrated with a large base sitting on the seabed - at Hibinikada.
Having installed just over 400MW onshore since 2000, South Korea has thus far been decidedly lukewarm about wind power. Relatively low average wind speeds on land and a lack of suitable development sites are cited as the primary reasons for this.
It is a different story offshore. Government and industrialists view offshore wind as an opportunity to diversify maritime manufacturing beyond shipbuilding and related industries. The government has made no secret of its ambition to become a leading exporter of offshore turbines, but there is also 9GW of domestic offshore resource to be exploited, with the greatest resources around Jeju Island, where some 60% of South Korea's wind potential is concentrated.
Residents of Jeju Island are broadly supportive of renewable energy and several smart grid projects are under way. The island enjoys relative political autonomy and has the potential to become almost wholly energy self-sufficient - and export surplus to the mainland. Current plans put its installed wind capacity at 936MW by 2050, most of which would be offshore.
In total, more than 4.7GW of offshore wind is earmarked for development in South Korea by 2020. This will be achieved via a mix of local government projects, totalling about 2.2GW, and a large central government-led project, which when completed by 2019 will have an installed capacity of 2.5GW. Korea Electric Power Corporation leads the consortium developing the latter, which is scheduled to complete a 100MW first phase in 2014.
Korean manufacturers will be involved in the domestic market, with several conglomerates developing or manufacturing offshore turbines. Participants include Samsung Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, STX, Hyundai and Doosan Heavy Industry.
Since January, South Korea's 13 largest utilities have been obliged to buy or generate 2% of their total energy from renewables. This will increase in stages to 10% over ten years. Utilities demonstrate compliance by purchasing renewable portfolio standard certificates. Onshore wind farms receive one certificate, priced at $0.035 per kilowatt hour generated; offshore operators will receive twice this amount.
However, the long-term future of renewables in South Korea is unpredictable. In particular, offshore wind is still in need of its own policy framework.
For both South Korea and Japan, it may be necessary for one government ministry or body to oversee the development and regulation of offshore wind before the two countries' resources can be fully exploited.