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Siemens Gamesa typhoon-proofs offshore wind turbines for Japan

Global leader looks to capture half of the Asian market

Siemens Gamesa seeks to capture 50% or more of the Asian market for offshore wind turbines.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy has developed an offshore wind turbine able to withstand strong winds, aiming to deliver it to typhoon-prone Japan and other parts of Asia, executives told Nikkei in interviews.

Each unit, with a 200-meter diameter, can generate 11 megawatts, and the blades can resist winds of up to 57 meters per second.

Siemens Gamesa recently obtained certification from the International Electrotechnical Commission for the turbine and seeks to have a 14 MW model certified as well, said Niels Steenberg, executive general manager for offshore in the Asia-Pacific.

"We have quite a lot of experience" with extreme wind conditions, he said.

The Spanish company is majority-owned by a unit of German engineering group Siemens and leads the global market in offshore wind turbines.

Offshore wind farms have grown in scale in recent years, with each unit boasting output of more than 10 MW. Each offshore site normally contains dozens of such units.

But unlike northern Europe, where wind speeds hold more or less steady year-round, East Asia is rife with typhoons, creating demand for more durable windmills.

The Japanese government has set a goal of installing up to 45 gigawatts of offshore wind turbines by 2040. Where the equipment will be made has been a pressing question.

"We're doing a lot of work, with a lot of suppliers in Japan, looking at different partners," said Russell Cato, managing director for Siemens Gamesa in Japan, who also talked to Nikkei.

The company aims to source 60% of the materials from Japan by 2040, he said.

At the same time, the product "needs to be of the highest quality, cost-competitive and safe," said Cato, who suggested that using some Japanese materials could raise power generation costs.

Siemens Gamesa will increase the employees at its Japanese arm by 60% to 100 in a year, Cato said. The larger staff will support enhanced maintenance and service for the wind turbines.

In Taiwan, which is ahead of Japan in rolling out offshore wind power, Siemens Gamesa has already captured orders for 3 GW of wind farms. The company's share in the market exceeds 70%.

"We want the same level of success in Japan," Cato said.

China is projected to become the global leader in offshore wind energy as early as 2021. Siemens Gamesa is licensing technology to Shanghai Electric Group, which is said to command a 42% share in Chinese offshore wind power.

As the offshore wind energy market matures in Europe, "we would like to achieve a similar market share in Asia as we have in the rest of the world, which is above 50%," Steenberg said.

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