Being half owned by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries gives MHI Vestas a “significant advantage” in Japan’s emerging offshore wind sector, the OEM’s chief executive Philippe Kavafyan told Recharge.

The country’s industry for wind at sea has an environment, where it is “not easy as a first-comer to even be accepted at the table to discuss,” Kavafyan said in an interview last week with Recharge in Copenhagen.

“But if you have MHI cooperate, or in our case Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, as a mother company, that opens basically the door to an industrial or project ecosystem that is very demanding.”

Danish onshore wind OEM Vestas and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, a unit of Japanese industrial conglomerate Mitsubishi, in 2013 formed a 50/50 joint venture that quickly grew to become the world’s second-largest manufacturer of offshore wind turbines.

Despite being half-owned by the Japanese industrial giant, the company’s orders came from Europe as Japan’s own offshore wind market hardly took off due to insufficient support by the East Asian country’s government and the deep waters off most of the island nation that in most places are more suitable for (more expensive) floating wind technology.

That has changed when earlier this year, Japan’s parliament passed legislation clearing the way for first offshore wind tenders to take place next year that will allow a long-term development of the sector, while the government has set a 10GW wind target (for onshore and offshore combined) for 2030.

Already having experts on the ground in Japan will help MHI Vestas to cater to the fledgling market, Kavafyan said.

“We have people in our company for years now working in the technical department, in manufacturing, in the project department that are completely fluent in Japanese, and completely fluent in the technical discussions we need to have with customers,” he said.

“We think that on the front door we might look the same as the others. But when the Japanese customers come and visit us, and it is a Japanese manufacturing manager that is showing them our shop, I think they understand that we are not in the same league.”

In a breakthrough in Japan, MHI Vestas last month received an order for the 220MW Hibikinada project being developed off the southwest coast of Japan by a consortium led by J-Power and regional utility Kyuden Mirai – one of the first orders to advance under the new offshore wind regulations.

“We see a momentum building up. The fundamental energy mix situation in Japan can only make this figure bigger.”

The CEO added that Japan’s current 10GW wind power target for 2030 still assumes that a significant number of currently idle nuclear power stations will be switched back on. That may not be the most realistic scenario, though.

“In any scenario, where these restarts would take more time, or would be made more difficult through [the lack of] public acceptance, you end up in a situation, where the target, the national expectation for renewables, will increase significantly.”