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Japan moves forward with floating wind turbine ambitions

Japan installed a small floating wind turbine off one of the Goto islands yesterday, in a further step towards commercialising the technology.

The demonstration project, organised by the Ministry of Environment (MOE), uses a 100kW wind turbine made by Fuji Heavy. It was originally installed by Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) on Isena Island in Okinawa in 2002.

The turbine has now been moved to a site 1km off Kabashima Island, in Nagasaki Prefecture, and installed on a spar-type floater in water 96-99 metres deep.

The machine is the largest yet to be used on a floating project in Japan and the first to be connected to the grid.

Japan has limited land available for onshore wind farms and its surrounding waters are deep with a steep seabed – making them unsuited to the more commonly used fixed foundations for offshore wind projects.

Japanese researchers started testing small, model turbines on floating devices a few years ago, but the latest project is one of two government-funded projects aimed at bringing floating wind into commercial use.

MOE plans to replace the small turbine with a 2MW model next summer before launching larger floating projects by 2016. It aims to reach up to 5.6GW by 2030, according to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is funding a competing project off the coast of Fukushima, the region devastated by last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

A consortium of companies will install a 2MW floating turbine there next year, followed by two 7MW machines in 2014.

The METI wants to install 143 offshore turbines between 2016 and 2020 with the aim of providing 1GW of power – about the same as that produced by one nuclear power reactor, says the report.