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 March 07, 2012
Fukushima "world's first floating offshore wind farm"

 Mitsubishi and Hitatchi join consortium to build experimental 16MW floating offshore wind farm

Japan's Fukushima prefecture, which was last year hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami, could become an export hub for offshore wind technology under plans put forward by a consortium to build the world's first floating wind farm.

Logistics corporation Marubeni yesterday announced it would lead a project to build three floating wind turbines with a total of 16MW capactity and one floating substation off the coast of Fukushima, with work starting as early as this year.

The consortium also includes Mitsubishi, Nippon Steel, and Hitachi, and is backed by the government's Ministry of Economy Trade and Iindustry.

It plans to start installing a 2MW floating wind turbine this year, as well as the world's first floating substation. The project will then ramp up capacity, installing two 7MW floating wind turbines in 2013 and 2015.

Yoshinori Ueda, director of the Japanese Wind Energy Association, told BusinessGreen that Fuji Heavy Industries will supply the first 2MW turbine, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will supply a 7MW turbine for the second stage but the third stage turbine has yet to be selected. Hitachi will provide the substation.

IHI Marine, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsui Shipbuilding will produce "floaters" for the turbines to be installed on 20-40 kilometres out to sea, in waters 100-150m deep.

Marubeni said it hoped the floating offshore wind project would spark economic growth in the area, and could potentially allow Fukushima to export floating offshore wind technology.

"Fukushima Prefecture expects this experimental project to spawn a new industry in renewable energy and create employment as part of recovery efforts in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake," it said in a statement.

"Through this experimental project, Fukushima Prefecture hopes to develop a large wind farm industry."

The United Nations this week revealed the major earthquake, tsunami and nuclear leak at Tepco's Fukushima-Daiichii power plant, caused an estimated $210bn of damage.

Following the earthquake, Japan's wind energy association revealed all but one of its 1,742 wind turbines survived the quake, as wind turbines in Japan use thicker steel and the country has strict planning regulation to counter earthquake risks.

The consortium hopes that floating wind turbines will be even more resilient to quakes as their design would allow them to absorb shocks more easily than rigid structures.

"We believe that creating a practical wind farm business scheme through this experimental project could lead to the deployment of large scale floating wind farms in the future," added Marubeni.

"Taking advantage of the experience and knowledge gained through this, the world's first floating wind farm, this business could be expanded on a global basis and lead to the development of a new Japanese export industry."

The UK is also pursuing plans to deploy a prototype floating turbine as part of a £25m Energy Technologies Institute project that aims to have a device in waters off the UK coast by 2016.