The Yomiuri ShimbunEffective utilization of wind blowing across the ocean to generate power: If it becomes widespread, it will be a valuable renewable energy source.
A law to promote the utilization of offshore wind power generation was enacted in a recent extraordinary Diet session. The aim of the law is to facilitate the construction of offshore wind power plants.
Under the law, the government will designate zones for the promotion of offshore wind power generation. Operators will be publicly sought and offered exclusive use of the zones for up to 30 years. Until now, no uniform rules have existed. Prefectural governments have individually allowed the use of certain areas, but permission has only been valid for periods of three to five years, thus limiting the spread of offshore wind power generation.
The new law also incorporates a system for the creation of councils in the designated zones that will coordinate with fishermen and other stakeholders. In developing offshore zones, it is important to disclose such information as the possible impact to fisheries to obtain understanding and cooperation from local communities.
The power-generating capacity of renewable energy has been rapidly increasing since 2012, when a fixed-price purchase system was introduced. However, most of that additional capacity is from solar power generation.
From a viewpoint of crisis management, a diverse range of energy sources is desirable. Increasing the power-generation capacity of renewable energy, which is also useful as a measure against global warming, is a significant aim. The disproportionate use of solar power generation must be corrected wherever the possibility exists.
Address cost issue
In Japan, wind power generation facilities have mostly been built on land. The problem of noise from such facilities has become conspicuous. There is no doubt that there is ample room for the expansion of offshore wind power generation, for which few facilities currently exist.
Wind blowing across the vast expanses of the ocean surface is more stable in terms of force and direction than that which blows over undulating terrain above land. Compared to land-based wind power generation, the offshore method has the advantage of enabling construction of large-capacity power generation facilities more easily as it is possible to install more large wind turbines.
Many Japanese companies involved in wind power generation, including steelmakers and manufacturers of electricity generators, have excellent technologies at their disposal. More than a few have already expressed interest in entering the offshore wind power generation sector. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. is planning to build a large-scale offshore wind power plant off Choshi in Chiba Prefecture.
In order to steadily expand offshore wind power generation, it is essential for the government to set long-term objectives.
A particularly difficult issue is how to reduce construction costs. The construction of seabed foundations dozens of meters below the surface of the water and the installation of wind turbines on large raft-like platforms involve construction methods different from those required for land-based wind power plants. The plants need to withstand the effects of saltwater waves, winds, typhoons and tsunami.
It is also necessary to build power transmission facilities that connect offshore farms to power lines on land. If construction costs rise, it will cause energy bills to increase as well.
In Europe, efforts have been made to expand offshore wind power generation for more than 20 years. Corporate efforts and governmental policy support have brought about cost-cutting effects there. Utilizing such efforts as a reference, Japan should examine its own measures to promote offshore wind power generation.