To develop a powerful energy source, numerous problems must be overcome one by one.
Offshore wind power generation is attracting attention as a means to expand the use of renewable energy.
A new law to promote the introduction of offshore wind power came into force last year. Before that, operators of offshore power generation had to comply with separate prefectural ordinances and were allowed to operate only for three to five years. The new law enables an operation period to extend up to 30 years, to support commercialization.
Japan is surrounded by the sea. It is appropriate for the government to aim to promote the spread of offshore wind power by utilizing Japan’s geographical advantages.
The government designated the waters off Goto, Nagasaki Prefecture, as a promotion area. Two other areas — off the coast of Choshi in Chiba Prefecture and off Akita Prefecture — are also strong candidates for designation.
However, hurdles remain to be cleared before offshore wind power is widely used. It is essential to thoroughly examine its effectiveness and problems.
In fiscal 2017, renewable energy, excluding hydropower, accounted for only about 8% of total power generation. The figure for solar power was 5.2%, while wind power stood at only 0.6%.
It is important to increase wind power, which can generate electricity even at night or on cloudy days as long as the winds blow, to compensate for the disadvantages of solar power.
Until now, most wind power plants have been built on land. Suitable land for plants is limited because there are few plains in this country. There are also constant complaints about noise from such plants.
The wind is more stable at sea than on uneven land. It is also easy to construct large-capacity facilities without worrying about noise.
Europe is leading the way in offshore wind power. In Germany and Britain, renewable energy reportedly accounted for about 30%, mainly from wind power. However, the situations in Europe and Japan are very different.
The biggest obstacle in Japan is high costs. In Europe, a “bottom-fixed type” of wind power is the most common, which is laid on the seabed in shallow waters. As there are few such shallow seas in Japan, a “floating type” on the sea surface will be the mainstream. Construction costs will be higher than those of the bottom-fixed type.
There is a shortage of power transmission lines connecting suitable places for power generation, such as Hokkaido or the Tohoku region, with major energy-consuming areas such as the Tokyo metropolitan area. Equipping such lines also will cost a lot.
The unit costs of wind power generation in Japan are 1.6 times the world average. The public and private sectors should cooperate to reduce costs through mass production and technological development.
There are many typhoons in Japan. The equipment must be made more durable. It is also important to consider the natural environment and gain the understanding of local fishermen.
To both prevent global warming and ensure a stable power supply, it is necessary to expand the use of renewable energy while utilizing nuclear power plants, which do not emit greenhouse gases and generate stable power. The government should carefully explain to the public the importance of resuming the operation of nuclear reactors.