Japan’s Electric Power Development Co., better known as J-Power, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with French multinational electric utility ENGIE to collaborate on power projects, specifically offshore wind and floating offshore wind projects.
Announced on Thursday of last week, J-Power and ENGIE revealed that they had signed a MoU for non-exclusive collaboration on power projects which would focus particularly on large-scale commercial offshore wind projects. The two companies said that they “believe that offshore wind power generation is a promising technology and therefore joint efforts shall be undertaken as part of this MoU to improve the competitiveness of the technology, including floating offshore wind power generation.”
The two companies will also continue their involvement in discussions for future collaborations across a variety of projects in Japan, Europe, and other regions.
This is not J-Power’s first foray into offshore wind, following its involvement in a consortium of companies set to build and operate the country’s first offshore wind farm off the Port of Hibikinada, a 220 megawatt (MW) demonstration project that could very well pave the way for significant future offshore wind development. J-Power also recently acquired a 25% stake in the recently finalized 860 MW Triton Knoll Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Lincolnshire in the UK.
Japan as a whole, however, is likely to see significant offshore wind development as it continues to move away from nuclear power following the disastrous nuclear meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011. Since then, Japan has had to come to terms with the fact that there is very little appetite for nuclear power — either political, popular, or corporate appetite. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, better known as TEPCO, has kept its nuclear reactors offline ever since early 2011, despite receiving approval to restart reactors 6 and 7 at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture last year, and at the end of July announced its decision to develop 7 gigawatts (GW) worth of renewable energy — flagging offshore wind as its preferred technology.
Japan might have to fight to make a place for itself in the offshore wind energy sector, however, considering that one of its regional neighbors, Taiwan, has already solidified itself as the world’s next big offshore wind energy sector, with 5.5 GW worth of offshore wind set to be developed by 2025 — 3.8 GW in awarded in May and another 1.6 GW in June.
However, one area in which Japan might be able to dominate is the floating offshore wind energy sector, an area that TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa said he would like to “take up the challenge” and build floating offshore projects. As an island nation, Japan might need to look to non-traditional offshore wind technologies such as floating wind turbines, considering the depth and severity of its coastal waters, and the dramatic increase in costs that would be required to rely on fixed-foundation offshore wind.
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