Met masts advance offshore plan

JAPAN: Two meteorological masts are to be erected off the coast of Japan in preparation for the installation of fixed-foundation wind turbines, as part of data-gathering experiments that are viewed as crucial for the spread of offshore windpower around Japan.

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The two masts, one in the Sea of Japan, at Kitakyushu, and the other in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Choshi, in Chiba, will begin data gathering in October, and will be followed by the installation of a fixed-foundation turbine at each site.

Japan is also pursuing floating installations, with one experimental project underway off the Goto Islands in southern Japan, and a deep-sea initiative planned for the sea lanes off the coast of Fukushima from next year. However, the choice to go with fixed-base installations for Kitakyushu and Choshi was based on cost, said Masaharu Itoh, director of the New Technology Department at New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), an independent administrative agency with ties to Japan's economic, trade and industry ministry.

NEDO is involved in both projects, along with Professor Ishihara of the University of Tokyo, who is also heavily involved in the Fukushima offshore floating project.

Local conditions

"We are aiming to develop technology related to the construction, operation and maintenance of the type of wind turbines necessary to implement offshore wind in Japan, " says Itoh. NEDO is reluctant to apply European case studies to Japan, based on the existence of typhoons, the effect of wind turbulence produced by the proximity of mountain ranges to the coastline, powerful swells in the Pacific, and seasonal differences in wave size in the Sea of Japan.

The Kitakyushu offshore meteorological tower will be installed approximately 1.5km off the coast in the Sea of Japan, and will measure wind and wave conditions prior to a 2MW Japan Steel Works wind turbine being installed. This project is based on joint research between NEDO and J-Power, under the leadership of Professor Ishihara.

As part of another project between NEDO and Tokyo Electric Power Company, also led by Professor Ishihara, a met mast will be installed in the Pacific, three kilometres off Choshi, around the same time, and the subsequent turbine to be installed will be a 2.4MW from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

The projects have been in development for four years, and may gain a boost from the July introduction of feed-in tariffs of JPY 23.1/kWh ($0.30/kWh) for projects above 20kW over 20 years, but progress is not directly related to the tariff, Itoh says.

The project's budget is approximately JPY 10 billion for the construction and operation of the masts and turbines, with around JPY 3 billion being spent on the masts, and JPY 7 billion on the turbines.

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