Offshore Wind Farms to be Expanded to EEZ to Promote Decarbonization

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The government plans to expand the sea area where offshore wind turbines are allowed to be set up from within Japan’s territorial waters at present to its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Positioning offshore wind power generation as important for promoting renewable energy, the government intends to support the adoption of such facilities, thus propelling decarbonization. It will submit a bill to the Diet to amend the relevant law as early as March.

Under the law on the utilization of sea areas for the development of renewable energy generation, the “promotion zones” are designated as ones suitable for the introduction of offshore wind power from the “territorial and inland waters of Japan.”

The law also stipulates that business operators selected through public tender are permitted to use the sea areas for a period not exceeding 30 years.

Japan’s territorial waters cover an area of approximately 430,000 square kilometers. According to the Economy, Trade, and Industry Ministry and others, the expected power generation capacity stood at only about 5 million kilowatts as of the end of last year.

The government has set a target of increasing the power generation capacity of offshore wind farms to 30 million kW to 45 million kW by 2040, and it has concluded that it is necessary to have the sea areas permitted for the development of such facilities expanded to include those of the EEZ, which is about 10 times the area of the country’s territorial waters.

For the development of wind farms in the EEZ, the government will adopt a “two-stage formula” as follows. The government will first designate a “zone for taking applications” and issue a provisional permit to developers who wish to build wind farms. Then the prospective developers will form a council with local parties concerned, including fishermen, and if they reach an agreement, they will be given a formal permit.

Such a formula is aimed at having the developers and local parties concerned discuss the installation plan as well as its impact on the environment at an early stage.

Until now, offshore wind power generation facilities in territorial waters have been mostly bottom-fixed wind turbines, in which the tower of the wind turbine is anchored to the seabed. But in the EEZ where the water is deep, floating wind turbines are expected to be adopted. Such turbines are not anchored to the seabed. They are moored and float on the sea surface.

Verification tests of floating wind turbines have been progressing around the world, and international competition is expected to intensify.

The government aims to put the technology into commercial use around 2030 and have it deployed in other Asian countries. It hopes that the expanded development of such facilities into the EEZ will also serve as an opportunity to enhance industrial competitiveness.