Japan’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm Starts Commercial Operations

Japan offshore wind farm
The Ishikari Bay wind farm is the largest commercial wind farm in Japan (JERA)

Published Jan 4, 2024 4:26 PM by The Maritime Executive


Japan’s largest commercial wind farm and one of the very first to be completed offshore was commissioned near Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s main islands. Located on the west side of the island in the Sea of Japan, the wind farm began commercial operations on January 1 as part of the government’s efforts to accelerate the use of renewable energy.

The development of offshore wind power generation has been slow in Japan in part due to the challenges faced by the geography. Most of Japan’s coastal regions have greater ocean depth which favors floating wind turbines and in addition, the region is exposed to typhoons, volcanoes, and earthquakes. Despite this, the government has outlined a plan to go from virtually nothing to at least 10 GW in the pipeline by 2030. By 2040, the plan calls for as much as 45 GW of offshore power generation capacity.

The Ishikari Bay New Port Offshore Wind farm is located near the city of Ishikari. It adopted a design suited to the challenges of operating offshore in Japan with specially suited Siemens Gamesa wind turbines. It is also the first wind farm in Japan to adopt the larger 8 GW turbines. Because of the geographic challenges, the wind farm in in a nearshore position.

The project consists of 14 wind turbines. It has a total power capacity of 112 MW. The design also incorporates a battery storage capacity which is a distinguishing feature of the wind farm. It will permit the storage of electricity which can help to reduce fluctuations and ensure a consistent power feed into the Hokkaido Electric Power Network.

The wind farm was developed in a partnership between Jera, Japan’s largest power generation company, and Green Power Investment Corporation, which Jera owns in conjunction with NTT. GPI was founded in 2004 dedicated to the development, construction, and operation of renewable energy projects. In 2020, it completed the 122 MW onshore wind farm at Tsugaru, which was then the largest in Japan. Jera and NTT acquired GPI last year in a deal valued at more than $2 billion, which the Japanese media outlet NHK reported was the most ever paid to buy a Japanese renewable energy company.

A year ago, Japan commissioned its first large offshore wind farms, a two-phase nearshore project in Akita Prefect on the main island of Honshu. One of the two neighboring installations has the capacity to provide 84 MW with 20 fixed-bottom 4.2 MW turbines while the other location has 13 turbines. The total site has a capacity of approximately 138 MW.

Japan recently completed its next round of auctions selecting three groups including Jera, which along with Tohoku Electric Power and J Power won the rights for a 315 MW wind farm also to be located in Akita. Germany’s RWE was part of another consortium awarded a site and the third went to a partnership between Sumitomo and Tokyo Electric. The three projects have the potential to provide 1.4 GW of offshore power capacity by the end of this decade.