Japan plans to build biggest offshore wind power plant

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. is considering a project to build one of the nation’s biggest offshore wind power plants, it has been learned.

The wind farm’s generating capacity is expected to be over 1 million kilowatts, the equivalent of the power produced by a nuclear power reactor. One of its potential locations is off Choshi, Chiba Prefecture.

Renewable energy production is increasing worldwide. TEPCO plans to work its way into this trend, so it can make up for the costs of decommissioning reactors or removing remaining radioactive substances following the accident at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

According to the project, the electric company will join hands with a highly experienced European offshore wind power maker and spend about ¥1 trillion (about $9.2 billion) to install about 200 wind turbines offshore. It will employ fixed bottom turbines, the foundations of which are placed in the seabed. Each turbine can produce around 5,000 kilowatts and cover the annual power consumption of about 300,000 average households.

TEPCO hopes to secure stable profits by selling generated electricity through the feed-in tariff (FIT) system, a government scheme to purchase such electricity at fixed prices.

The company is scheduled to start commercially operating offshore wind power this month by generating 2,400 kilowatts off Choshi. This will be the first time for the fixed bottom type to be in operation in the country. TEPCO is also considering a nearby location for the full-fledged generator.

Offshore wind power enables efficient electricity generation because wind speed on the sea is more stable than on land.

The government also supports offshore wind power business operations.

Under current prefectural ordinances, if a company wants to use a given location for offshore wind power, occupancy is permitted only for three to five years. A law to promote offshore wind power, which will come into effect by this spring, will allow occupancy for up to 30 years. Based on this law, the government will designate around five project-promoting areas and appoint business operators. TEPCO is one of the leading candidates since it is ahead of its rivals in terms of offshore wind power commercialization. The company intends to begin construction as early as fiscal 2019.

TEPCO has failed to resume its nuclear plant operations so far and has relied on thermal power, which accounts for about 80 percent of its power generation. As thermal power plants discharge large amounts of greenhouse gases, the company urgently needs to expand renewable energy generation.