Beginning 2014 on an upbeat note are two developing stories (not occurring in Europe which is the center of the offshore wind market) that no doubt will continue to capture industry headlines throughout the year.
First is in Japan with the impressive progress of The Fukushima Floating Offshore Wind Farm Demonstration Project (FORWARD).
The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami as part of its terrible impact, hit a nuclear reactor in the Fukushima Prefecture of Japan, resulting in one of the most dangerous nuclear accidents of our times. As part of its response, the Japanese government has made a massive and sustained commitment to the development and deployment of renewable energy, in particular offshore wind.
Due to the ultra-deep water around Japan, the technology required for offshore wind was unique in that the foundations which support turbines with a nameplate capacity of 7MW, needed to float. The newest generation of these turbines stand some 187 meters (613 feet) above the surface of the water with blades over 80 meters in length.
FORWARD deployed the worlds first grid connected floating turbines in 2013 and is comprised of a consortium of Industry, Government and research institutions. The initial development off the coast of Fukushima anticipates a total project investment of ¥18.8 billion and is being rolled out in two phases which are expected to be completed in 2015. The full story of the project and its expected economic impact can be found here.
What is impressive about all of this is the level of commitment and support it has been given at all levels and the speed to which it is being executed. With a global wind power market forecast to grow to ¥4.3 trillion by 2020, clearly Japanese industry is positioning itself for a leadership position.
The other positive news is that the Cape Wind project, which is being developed off the coast of Massachusetts, has signed an agreement with Siemens to be supply the 130 3.2MW offshore wind turbines for the project. Unlike the quick Japanese project development, and despite having the longstanding support of Massachusetts state government, Cape Wind has been caught up in bitter, often politically motivated legal fights for the past decade. With contracts now being awarded the project is expected to be completed and commissioned by 2016.
Given this progress in both Japan and the US, along with the very active European market, we expect a big story for 2014 will be the emergence of the global offshore wind industry – and with it the innovation, volume and scale necessary to continue to wind farm efficiencies and to drive down the overall installation costs.
Here’s to a great 2014!