Wind Energy – Japan
Hokkaido carries the potential to supply Tokyo and other parts of Japan with offshore wind energy, but the lack of adequate transmission capacity has kept the northernmost prefecture from becoming a hub for the renewable resource.
Japan looks to allocate ¥5 billion (US$43.4 million) in this fiscal year’s supplementary budget toward a feasibility study for undersea cables that could help Hokkaido become a destination for offshore wind operators.
The prefecture enjoys wide coastlines and strong winds over coastal waters.
“I see a greater potential of resolving the problem with transmission, which posed a bottleneck for offshore wind power,” said Tatsuyuki Kato, mayor of Ishikari, a coastal city in western Hokkaido.
Ishikari contains roughly 70km of coastline, most of it facing ideal locations for installing offshore windmills. The city’s coast could house over 100 offshore wind turbines depending on demand.
But that level of supply would require a power cable, because sparsely populated Hokkaido will not consume a lot of wind power itself.
Two high-voltage direct current transmission lines linking Hokkaido and Japan’s main island of Honshu are to have their combined capacity raised to 1.2 million kW by 2028, but that would not be enough.
One solution floated calls for a new undersea transmission line either in the Pacific Ocean or the Sea of Japan.
The line would connect to either Fukushima Prefecture or Niigata Prefecture, which both host robust transmission networks, enabling the power to be delivered to the Tokyo metropolitan area.
As Japan works to reduce carbon emissions, the economy and infrastructure ministries released a vision in 2020 for an offshore wind power industry. They want offshore wind to generate up to 45 million kW of electricity nationwide by 2040.
Hokkaido is expected to produce up to 14.65 million kW of wind power, about one-third of the target. Offshore wind turbines can generate around 10,000 kW of power each, and up to about 1,400 turbines are expected to be installed across Hokkaido.
“Now that the feasibility study is included in the supplementary budget, wind power companies based in the Tokyo area are also bullish about building in Hokkaido,” an executive at a local general contractor said.
Hokkaido municipalities are eager to ride the boom. Ishikari will launch a team led by the mayor in January to woo wind projects, with the cooperation of local fishers, farmers and the chamber of commerce.
Rumoi, which experiences winds of 5-7kph throughout the year, also has volunteered to host new projects.
“We made the decision partly because the study was included in the new budget,” a city government worker said.
But building a four million kW link connecting Hokkaido and Tokyo would cost ¥800 billion to ¥1.2 trillion, according to an estimate published in July by the Organization for Cross-regional Coordination of Transmission Operators in Japan.
Such a project likely would not be completed until the 2030s. The turbines themselves also are slated for completion in the 2030s and 2040s.
“It’s unclear how much the new transmission capacity and offshore wind power will benefit local companies,” said Kentaro Kato at Deloitte Tohmatsu Group. “Businesses in Hokkaido need to hone their abilities in construction and maintenance services, starting now.”