As an island nation with limited natural resources of its own, Japan has always had to look abroad for energy supplies. It has historically relied significantly on the import of LNG to meet its energy needs at the same time as developing its own nuclear power industry.
However, with demand for LNG increasing worldwide, the global drive towards decarbonisation, and a desire to scale back reliance on nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster in 2011, there is now a new focus in Japan on offshore wind as a source of energy. In September 2022, the Japanese government designated three ‘promotion areas’ off the coast of Japan for developing offshore wind farms, as well as identifying several other areas where further development may be possible.
The benefits of offshore wind to Japan are clear: it will help Japan to meet its renewable energy targets, particularly where there is limited space for development of other renewable energy sources such as onshore wind and solar (given the country’s high population density and terrain), it will strengthen Japan’s energy security, and it will avoid further reliance on nuclear power.
There are also challenges, however, Japanese companies in the offshore wind sector have, to date, often needed to rely on technical expertise from more developed offshore wind markets, such as the US and Europe, and enter into commercial agreements with foreign companies for the use of offshore installation vessels (OIVs). With demand for such vessels increasing worldwide, securing contracts will be more important than ever. It is likely because of this that Japanese shipyards have now begun building their own OIVs.
Wind farms in Japan will also need to be able to withstand typhoons, earthquakes and tsunamis. However, if Japanese companies can develop technology to overcome these risks, such as floating foundations and turbines, they may be able to become one of the market leaders in new technologies in the sector.