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Japan plans new laws to encourage offshore wind power generation

Turbines at sea could generate five times more electricity than those onshore

An offshore wind power generation facility is tested off the coast of Chiba, Japan. (Photo courtesy of New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization)

TOKYO -- The Japanese government plans to submit a new law to the ordinary session of the 2018 Diet, in an effort to facilitate offshore power generation by setting out standards for operators installing wind turbines and the number of years of permitted operation.

As an island nation, Japan has many locations suitable for offshore wind power generation. Some experts estimate that offshore wind turbines can generate five times as much electricity as land-based ones. The government aims to reduce operators' risks and encourage new entries of companies by instituting the necessary laws.

The four ministries -- Economy, Trade and Industry; Land, Infrastructure and Transport; and Environment, as well as the Cabinet Office -- have started discussions, but there are still a host of issues remaining, such as rules for demolishing windmills.

According to an energy mix target for 2030 set out by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2015, the ministry has set a goal of boosting wind power generation about threefold to 10 million kilowatts over the 2016 level. With renewable energy mostly generated by solar power currently, the government hopes that developing laws regarding offshore wind power will help expand wind power generation in Japan.

There are two types of offshore wind turbines -- fixed and floating. Both deliver electricity to substations via submarine cables. European and other countries have already embarked on numerous offshore wind power generation projects, but there have been few in Japan.

A lack of relevant laws has made companies reluctant to enter the offshore generation business. The government has revised the Port and Harbor Act to establish procedures for municipalities to solicit administrators. However, with no unified rules for the use of offshore and general waters, prefectures establish their own ordinances. The permission for occupancy of offshore sites ranges from three to 10 years by region.

Under the new laws, companies may be required to apply to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and other ministries, instead of local governments, for procedures. The permission for power generation may be extended to 20 years, similar to port areas.


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