RYOHEI SHIMIZU, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — Looking for an alternative to having a cable bring offshore wind energy to land? Japanese startup PowerX thinks that storing the energy in a battery and hauling it to shore is a viable approach.
The company just won a 1 billion yen ($8.84 million) investment from Imabari Shipbuilding, an industry leader in Japan, to develop the vessels. The partners will begin designing a power transport ship in January, hoping to start construction later in 2022. The acquisition of PowerX equity warrants will be part of a capital alliance.
The first vessel will adopt container ship designs, with a storage capacity reaching tens of thousands of kilowatt-hours. Liquefied natural gas is being considered as the fuel to power the vessel. Construction costs are expected to be in the billions of yen.
PowerX intends to begin a pilot operation of the power transport ship around 2025 in Japan’s coastal waters, looking to ascertain the operational performance and safety of the equipment.
The startup aims to partner with big-name utilities and other operators involved in offshore wind power. PowerX anticipates the deployment of floating wind farms as a result of the partnerships.
Japan is putting offshore wind at the heart of its renewable energy plans, targeting 10 gigawatts of capacity by 2030 and 30 GW to 45 GW by 2040.
Submarine cables typically are used to transport energy from wind farms, but installation can cost $900,000 to $1.8 million per kilometer. Imabari and PowerX look to make these wind farms quicker and cheaper to build by using ships to transport the electricity.
PowerX also plans to break ground on a factory in 2022 to produce storage batteries used in ships, homes and electric vehicles. Mass production is slated to begin in 2024, and the company plans to sell the batteries to automakers and major property developers.
The startup aims to raise around 8 billion yen in total for its electricity cargo ship and other battery-related operations. It is negotiating capital partnerships with over 30 companies including utilities, automakers and financial institutions.
PowerX was founded in March by CEO Masahiro Ito, the former chief operating officer of online fashion retailer Zozo. Directors on the board include Paolo Cerruti, a former Tesla executive and current chief operating officer at Swedish battery maker Northvolt, as well as former Google executive Caesar Sengupta.