A Marubeni-led group pressed the green light for first work to start this month on what could be Japan’s debut commercial offshore wind farms to enter service.

Marubeni, in conjunction with partners including Obayashi, Kansai Electric and Chubu Electric, said they’ll proceed after agreeing undisclosed finance for the Akita Port and Noshiro Port projects totaling 140MW between them.

The two wind farms in Akita Prefecture are expected to start commercial operations in 2022, with initial work on onshore transmission infrastructure kicking off this month.

The projects were among those tendered by Akita in 2015 as part of a drive to spur development in the vicinity of Japan’s ports. No turbine supplier is specified for the developments, which will sell their electricity to Tohoku Electric under a 20-year PPA and use Noshiro as their base.

MUFG Bank, Mizuho Bank and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation led the project finance with participation from “multiple domestic and foreign financial institutions”, said Marubeni.

The timescale makes the Akita and Noshiro projects candidates to become the first commercial offshore wind operating in Japan. No turbine supplier is specified for the developments.

They join the 220MW Hibikinada project off Kitakyushu City on Kyushu in southern Japan, which is also potentially online in 2022 and has lined up MHI Vestas to supply its 9.5MW turbines.

With first auctions expected later this year, the ports projects are precursors to a decisive leap into offshore wind that is set to make Japan among the most important of the next wave of new markets to emerge after Taiwan and the US.

Japan’s parliament in 2019 passed legislation clearing the way for first offshore wind tenders to take place this year to underpin long-term development of the sector, while the government has set a 10GW wind target (onshore and offshore combined) for 2030.

Gunnar Herzig, managing director of global offshore wind advocacy body World Forum Offshore Wind, told Recharge: “This impressive development not only shows how quickly things can move in the offshore wind industry once the regulatory framework is in place, but also how Japan as an industrial powerhouse has all the stakeholders needed (utilities, construction firms, financial institutions) to successfully create a flourishing offshore wind market.”

Asia Wind Energy Association board member Edgare Kerkwijk added: “It is interesting to see Marubeni, one of the largest potential players in the offshore wind sector in Japan, has chosen the path of entering construction on the basis of a bilateral power purchase agreements (PPA) before the start of the official auction process. We are most likely to see some other players follow the same path.

“This could result in two different groups chasing the offshore wind dream in Japan: one group that will participate in the official auction and one group that will look at bilateral PPA to kick start their projects.

“I will be interesting to see the government’s feedback as the appetite of the industry is significant higher than the government’s initial plans, that is, its first auction.”