Wind energy: Toshiba and GE create Japanese supply chain for offshore wind turbines

Toshiba aims to form a supply chain for offshore wind turbines in Japan, Nikkei has learned, with an eye toward creating a network of 100 suppliers with General Electric.

The partners will provide assistance ranging from developing components to production, soliciting smaller companies in such areas as Akita, in Japan’s northwest, that have conditions suited for offshore wind power.

Seeking to counter the exodus of domestic suppliers, Toshiba plans to rebuild the industrial base for wind turbines and tap demand for renewable energy.

The Japanese industrial conglomerate is targeting 2026 for domestic production of wind turbines. It plans to bring together a supply chain for nacelles, which house turbine components and the generator. The crucial equipment amplifies the rotation of the blades, helping the turbine generate power. Equivalent in size to a three-story building, they are made of several thousand parts.

Informational sessions will be held in areas that the government has designated for promoting wind power, including Akita and Niigata prefectures. Companies capable of supplying nacelle components will be selected, with procurement to start in fiscal 2025.

Toshiba envisions coordinating with about 100 smaller suppliers. The scope may be expanded if orders grow. By promoting domestic production, the goal is to bring the domestic procurement rate to 60% by value in 2040.

Support in such areas as helping suppliers with prototypes and maintaining quality control will be provided by Toshiba. Parts warehouses will be built near the offshore wind turbines so as to ensure proper handling of spare components and development of maintenance personnel. Wind turbines generally operate for 20 years, making repair and maintenance know-how crucial.

GE and Toshiba have a history of working on power systems. They partnered in sales of gas turbine power systems in 2011. Toshiba waded into the production of offshore wind turbines through a 2021 tie-up with GE.

Plans call for assembling nacelles at Toshiba’s Keihin facility in Yokohama. Annual assembly capacity is about 80 units.

Orders include wind turbines for a project in Akita prefecture due to start as early as 2028. Mishibishi Corp., as part of a consortium, placed a consolidated order with GE for large wind turbines. Toshiba aims to leverage its GE ties to expand sales.

The domestic market for offshore wind power has not developed as expected, with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi pulling out of wind turbine production.

The Japanese government hopes to have 30 to 45 gigawatts of offshore wind power installed by 2040. It also has set a goal of domestic operators accounting for 60% of the investment related to wind turbine production and related construction.