Japan to open bidding for Akita area offshore wind farm

By Yuka Obayashi

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's industry ministry will open bidding for an area off Akita, northern Japan, for the development of an offshore wind farm while designating four "promising areas" and identifying 10 as potentially suitable for development, it said in a statement.

Japan's offshore wind power market is expected to grow after the government introduced a law in 2019 to develop wind farms and set a goal last year of installing up to 10 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind capacity by 2030, and 30-45 GW by 2040.

The ministry plan was to identify and auction off areas capable of generating 1 GW of offshore wind power a year but only the 360 megawatts (MW) Happo-Noshiro, off Akita, was selected for auction this time.

"It has taken more time to consult local communities as many stakeholders are involved and as physical meetings have been postponed due to the coronavirus," a ministry official said on Tuesday.

The public auction for the Happo-Noshiro project could start in about four months, said the official.

The new promising areas include three in the Sea of Japan - one each off Akita, Yamagata and Niigata in northern Japan and one in the Pacific Ocean, off Chiba, near Tokyo.

For those areas, the preparation process, which includes wind and geological surveys and the formation of councils to consult communities, will start immediately while the process for three areas identified earlier as promising will continue.

The ministry chose a consortium led by Toda Corporation in June for the 16.8 MW Goto floating offshore wind farm in Nagasaki, southern Japan, in the first auction under the new law.

From a first round of the process to select operators, areas with the capacity to generate about 1.5 GW were designated as enhanced areas and went forward to a bidding process, according to the ministry official.

(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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