Japan to quadruple offshore wind by 2040

Japan plans to more than quadruple its offshore wind power to 30-45 gigawatts (GW) by 2040 in an ambitious bid to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Its current capacity is only about 20 megawatts.

The plan, dubbed the Offshore Wind Industry Vision, was approved during a meeting between Japanese industry leaders and government officials. The government will be involved in the creation of the new wind facilities from the planning stages and will require at least 60% of equipment to come from Japanese suppliers.

A demonstration project is to start this year. The next step will be to install 10GW of offshore wind power by 2030, before aiming for 30-45GW by 2040.

If this target is reached, the cost of fixed offshore wind power (using turbines that are fixed to the seabed rather than floating) will drop to 8-9 yen per kilowatt-hour by 2030-35.

However, most of the sites will probably need floating platforms because of the depth of Japan’s coastal waters. The turbines will also need to be strong enough to weather typhoons and earthquakes.

Japan will also need to work on cost competitiveness, cut its high tariffs on equipment while still supporting the interests of developers, get its infrastructure policies right, and make sure the transmission grid can handle the surge in wind power. But none of this is impossible, and Japan can learn from the UK and European markets, says industry expert I-Ching Tseng

The government will invest some of a planned 2 trillion yen ($19.2 billion) green technologies fund to drive innovation in offshore wind, which Economy Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama describes as the key to cutting carbon in Japan. With limited space for onshore wind and solar power, the densely populated island will also rely on ammonia and hydrogen power to reach its goal.

The new goal comes in response to calls from Japan’s energy sector for long-term government targets to boost investment in offshore wind. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is looking to green investment to support Japan’s growth strategy.

Beyond 2040, the growth of offshore wind in Japan will probably need to keep accelerating. Shigehito Nakamura of the Japan Wind Power Association predicts it could hit 90 gigawatts by 2050.