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Energy

Japan seeks massive jump in offshore wind power over 10 years

Government aims to approve 1000MW a year as outdated coal power phased out

Japan's wind power has been mostly developed on land, although experts stress there is massive offshore potential. (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government said Thursday it is aiming to achieve a huge increase in offshore wind power capacity over a decade beginning next fiscal year.

Japan currently has only four sites generating offshore wind power -- for a total of 20 megawatts of capacity -- although as an island country surrounded by the sea, experts say there is huge potential for wind farms.

But now the government aims to approve three to four projects a year, starting from fiscal year 2021, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, or METI. That means a total of 30 will be approved in the next 10 years.

The total of three to four projects would have a capacity of about 1000 megawatts -- almost equivalent to that of one nuclear reactor.

Currently, one of the proposed project sites has started the selection process to choose operators, while the process for another three will start this fall.

After the selection of the operators, it normally takes five to eight years until commercial operation can begin.

As Japan is often criticized by environmentalists for depending too much on coal power, the government will aim to promote private investment in renewables and phase out outdated coal power plants.

For example, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism plans to establish facilities to store construction materials and parts. Also, the ministry will invest in ports to enhance the country's capacity to install offshore wind turbines.

Furthermore, METI will renew regulations covering power grids in order to make their operations more flexible to enhance renewables. Starting from 2021, whenever there is spare capacity in power grids, renewable energy will be able to utilize the grids more easily, according to government sources.

The government's policy target is for renewable energy to account for 22% to 24% of all electricity generated by fiscal year 2030. In the fiscal year 2018, renewables made up 17%.

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