Mitsubishi and Fuji named for Fukushima offshore wind farm

Japan’s government today announced plans to install two of Mitsubishi Heavy’s 7MW turbines at a floating wind farm off the Fukushima coast.

(ReCharge) The demonstration project will cost 12.5bn yen ($154m), Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) tells Recharge.

The project will also include a 2MW turbine made by Fuji Heavy, according to a statement from METI.

It is part of a plan to kick-start the country’s offshore wind sector and rejuvenate the Fukushima area following last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

The floating wind farm will be built by a consortium including Japanese trading house Marubeni, MHI, Mitsubishi Corp, IHI Marine United, Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding, Nippon Steel, Hitachi, Furukawa Electric and Shimizu.

The University of Tokyo and Mizuho Information & Research Institute are also involved in the project.

In the first phase of the project to complete by March 2013, the companies will install one of Fuji Heavy’s Subaru80 2MW turbines with a four-column, semi-submarine type floater and a 66kV floating offshore substation.

In the second phase, MHI will install two of its new 7MW turbines between 2013 and 2015 with a three-column, semi-submarine type floater.

The project will be located about 20-40km offshore in depths of 100-150 metres. The average annual wind speed is more than 7-metres per second and wave heights are 10-15 metres.

MHI received about 5bn yen from the Japanese government to develop its 7MW turbine, known as the ‘SeaAngel’. It uses a hydraulic transmission system to eliminate the need for a gearbox.

MHI plans to install its first 7MW prototype onshore in the UK next year, ahead of the Fukushima offshore project.

Japan has already announced another pilot floating wind farm off Goto island. Fuji Heavy will install one of its 2MW turbines there in 2013.

MHI will install a 2.4MW turbine in the Choshi demonstration project this summer in its first offshore project. The project was delayed a year following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Tokyo has said it wants to install 1GW of offshore wind power in the Fukushima region. The Japan Wind Energy Association (JWEA) believes this figure should be stretched to 10GW by expanding the area to take in the 300km coastline from Chiba to Fukushima.

Japan’s mountainous terrain and dense population limit growth of its onshore wind farms. Most projects are small, with many using only a couple of turbines. Going offshore could add significantly more wind power capacity and place projects close to power-hungry load centres like Tokyo.

Japan’s Wind Power Association (JWPA) estimates that there is potential for 519GW of floating offshore wind capacity in Japan compared with 94GW of fixed offshore wind and 169GW of onshore wind.

“The Tokyo area has good potential for offshore. It’s easy to get grid connections. The Fukushima nuclear power plants will never operate again so there’s a vacant grid line there,” says Yoshinori Ueda, assistant general manager at MHI.

He adds that there is also a virtually dormant oil-based power station near the 14MW Kamisu wind farm, Japan’s first offshore project, also in Fukushima prefecture. The power station’s grid line could be tapped if the Kamisu project is expanded.

Dominique Patton, Singapore

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012