By Chisaki Watanabe
A development to harness the power of the wind about 20 kilometers (12 miles) off the coast of Fukushima, site of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, began generating power on an operational basis today.
The project, funded by the government and led by Marubeni Corp. (8002), is a symbol of Japan’s ambition to commercialize the unproven technology of floating offshore wind power and its plan to turn quake-ravaged Fukushima into a clean energy hub.
“Fukushima is making a stride toward the future step by step,” Yuhei Sato, governor of Fukushima, said today at a ceremony in Fukushima marking the project’s initiation. “Floating offshore wind is a symbol of such a future.”
The 11-member group’s project so far consists of a 2-megawatt turbine from Hitachi Ltd. (6501) nicknamed “Fukushima Mirai.” A floating substation, the first of its kind, has also been set up and bears the name “Fukushima Kizuna.” Mirai means future, while kizuna translates as ties.
The group is planning to install two more turbines by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) with 7 megawatts of capacity each. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has said the floating offshore capacity may be expanded to 1,000 megawatts.
“The evaluation of safety, reliability and economic potential of the offshore floating wind farm through the collection and analysis of meteorological data, hydrographic data and performance data will be carried out during the experimental study,” according to a statement released by the group.
Officials say the project needs approval from local fishermen before becoming a commercial operation.
For Japan, which is surrounded by deep oceans, floating wind turbines hold the promise of opening up large areas to produce clean energy. The technology involves attaching turbines to structures that float in areas too deep for traditional towers fixed to the seafloor.
The trade ministry has already set aside 22 billion yen ($222 million) for the five-year undertaking, according to ministry officials. The trade ministry is requesting an additional 31 billion yen for the fiscal year starting April 1.
The Fukushima project follows similar projects with floating turbines in Norway, Portugal and Nagasaki in southwestern Japan. The Nagasaki project is backed by Japan’s environment ministry.