Japan sparks offshore with first floating tender

Japan has launched its first ever public tender to kickstart its nascent floating offshore wind industry.

Japan's offshore wind potential was revealed by the 7MW Fukushima floating demonstrator (pic credit: Hitachi)

Developers have until the end of the year to bid for 16.8MW of floating capacity off the country’s south-westernmost island Goto city in Nagasaki prefecture. The tender is capped at JPY 36,000/MWh (US$93.27/MWh. The winner of the auction will be announced in June next year.

Japan’s deep waters make floaters the only tenable solution for utility-scale offshore wind. To date, the Nagasaki prefecture can boast only the Toda Corporation-owned 2MW Kitakyushu Hibikinada floating demonstrator project off the coast of Goto City.

It is in this prefecture that the Japanese ministry of economy, trade and industry (METI) is starting the first round of auctions. Last year, METI identified Nagasaki as one of 11 suitable sites for offshore wind. Japan’s planning system has previously only permitted offshore wind development in waters off its ports and harbours. 

Alongside Nagasaki, Japan’s ministry of land, infrastructure and transport (MLIT) has tentatively announced more auction zones: three in the Akita prefecture and another in Choshi have been put forward. The country’s wind power association (JWPA) said it hopes by July to have these zones officially designated by the government.

Japan’s offshore wind auction process works by a two-step nomination process. Every year, local governments offer candidate sea zones to the central government. The second step of the auction involves selecting developers. 

Last month, a group of Japanese companies including Sumitomo and TEPCO formed a consortium to pursue a bid in the Akita prefecture. Three groups including the Sumitomo, Obayashi and Japan Wind Power Development will compete for the tender in the northern sea zone in Akita while the Sumitomo Group will compete with Renova’s Group in the southern sea zone of Akita.

By 2030, Japan wants 22%-24% energy to be provided by renewable energy – JWPA expects 10GW of offshore wind by 2030.