TOKYO -- Norwegian state-run company Statoil will partner with Hitachi Zosen to build a floating offshore wind farm in Japanese waters, with plans to begin construction as early as next year.
The duo agreed Tuesday to establish the operations. They will select a location from among several candidate sites off eastern Japan and elsewhere by June 2015 and evaluate profitability before starting on construction. Output capacity will likely be 5,000kW to 6,000kW, and project costs are estimated at 3 billion yen to 5 billion yen ($28.86 million to 48.1 million).
The move marks the first entry by a foreign company into the Japanese market for offshore wind farms. General Electric and others already have a presence in onshore facilities.
This will also likely be the first corporate-led project in the field. An ongoing pilot project in offshore wind farms is being spearheaded by the Japanese government.
Statoil has advanced technologies for adjusting turbine angles according to wind direction in order to maximize output. It set up trial equipment back in 2009 off the coast of Norway, leading worldwide efforts in the field. Hitachi Zosen will handle development of platforms enabling the turbines to float.
Offshore wind farms are already common in Europe, where they are typically planted directly in the seabed because the waters are just 20-30 meters deep. But Japan is surrounded by deeper waters, making the development of floating wind farms an urgent task.
The government has thus set a separate, higher price for offshore wind power starting in fiscal 2014 under the feed-in-tariff program. The price comes to 36 yen per kilowatt-hour, compared with 22 yen for onshore wind power.