Hibiki takes Japan back into floating wind after Fukushima Forward
Japan has switched on its first floating wind turbine since the Fukushima Forward project commissioned in 2014, with the Hibiki pilot unit now turning off Kitakyushu, in the north of the island nation.
The prototype, made up a 3.2MW Aerodyn two-bladed turbine set atop a steel ‘damping pool’ platform built by Hitachi Zosen with French technology outfit Ideol, has been installed as part of project being run by Nedo, the government’s industrial R&D department.
“This new floating turbine will help develop the technologies for future cost reduction [though testing] of the very light rotor and nacelle of the two-bladed rotor, super compact drive-train designed by Aerodyn and a new concept floater, designed by Ideol, that may reduce the floater movement,” said Yoshinori Ueda, general manager of the Japan Wind Power Association, which has supported the project.
“It is pretty new technology, with some risk,” he added. “But, to lighten tower top weight is the best way to reduce the cost for floating offshore wind power. Therefore, it worth taking risk to achieve the cost reduction.”
The start-up of Hibiki, built at the Sakai dockyard in Osaka, comes a year the installation off France of Ideol’s flagship, the 2MW FloatGen, which is built around an open-centred 36-metre-square, 10.8-metre-deep platform made of reinforced and pre-stressed concrete.
Last May, Ideol linked up with global investment giant Macquarie to develop the world’s first commercial-scale floating offshore wind farm off Japan, signing a memorandum of understanding that foresees beginning construction in 2023 of the “multi-hundred megawatt” project.
The Japanese floating wind power market stalled after the high-cost 14MW Fukushima demonstrator project – which recently decommissioned one of the four units at the site – but industry views of the potential off the island nation have improved considerably, helped by bullish analysts, including Wood Mackenzie which sees “explosive growth” in Asia’s offshore fleet will help fuel 723GW of global wind additions in the 2019-28 period.
Floating wind tilts towards a fast-approaching horizon
Japanese officials will soon release operational guidelines for a first offshore wind tender set to take place in the first half of 2020, although with a stipulation that the auction be limited to locations with water depths of 30 metres or less, floating wind will be effectively shut out of this round.
From a single industrial-scale prototype in 2009, floating wind is now progressing at a clip toward commercialisation, with arrays online or in development off Scotland, Portugal and France, Korea and in the US Pacific, as well as off Japan. With a next generation of floating wind concepts now heading for prototype testing , many analyst forecasts point to a fleet of 15GW or larger by 2030.