TOKYO -- Floating wind turbines atop the ocean could be the next big thing for renewable energy, and Japan is keen to learn the know-how.
Despite its small land area, Japan is the world's sixth-largest maritime nation by the size of its exclusive economic zone. The deep waters that surround the country and its long coastline give it the potential to become a hub for floating wind farms.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings has taken a step toward that green future by participating in a demonstration of a floating offshore wind farm in Scandinavia, through its renewables arm.
Tepco Renewable Power has invested in TetraSpar Demonstrator, the Danish company behind the project, alongside Royal Dutch Shell and German energy major RWE, the Japanese company said Thursday. The Tepco unit now has a 30% stake in the project, the largest after Shell, but did not disclose the amount of its investment.
The goal is to build a similar facility in Japan as early as the late 2020s.
Traditional offshore wind turbines are built on a fixed foundation in the sea. A floating wind turbine, meanwhile, is attached to a structure that floats in the water, which is tethered to the seabed to stop it from drifting off.
In the case of the Scandinavian project, a floating structure consisting of steel pipes and a suspension keel will be anchored roughly 10km off the coast of Norway. The structure, which does not require welding for assembly, is easy to set up and cost-competitive. A 3.6-megawatt wind turbine mounted on the structure is slated to come online this summer.
TetraSpar's offshore foundation is one of the more lightweight options available for wind power. It was assembled in the port of Grenaa, Denmark, in less than two months.
Tepco Renewable Power will send staff to help transport and operate the facility. The company aims to build 6,000 MW to 7,000 MW in new renewable power capacity by the early 2030s and sees the TetraSpar foundation as a boon to its efforts. Stiesdal Offshore Technologies developed this new foundation.
The deep waters around Japan make floating wind farms an easier option than those on a fixed platform. Many players are working on offshore wind facilities, including one undergoing a trial off the southern Japanese city of Kitakyushu.