Together, we can go further.
Changing the Future with Offshore Wind Power
Japan’s first large-scale offshore wind farm will soon be established in Akita Prefecture. The installation of wind turbine units is currently underway, and commercial operation of the farm is scheduled to begin in December of this year (2022).
At the helm of this project is Marubeni, the largest shareholder of the 13 companies with equity participation in the project. Marubeni has been leading this project since being selected by Akita prefecture in a bidding process conducted in 2014 and is responsible for assembling and executing all construction, operation, maintenance, and financing of all facilities related to power generation and transmission.
A total of 33 wind turbine units with an output of 4.2 megawatts (MW) each will operate off the coast of Akita port and Noshiro port. The total output will reach about 140 MW, which is enough electricity for approximately 130,000 households. This wind farm is a “bottom-fixed” wind farm, in which wind turbine units are fixed on a foundation built on the seabed. Electricity generated at sea is sent via submarine cables to onshore substations, from which it is delivered to Tohoku Electric Power Co.
“We were able to launch this project because we have been taking the lead in the industry,” says Mr. Hisafumi Manabe, President & CEO of Marubeni Offshore Wind Development (a Marubeni Group company that develops offshore wind power generation projects in Japan and overseas). Marubeni was one of the first Japanese companies to enter the offshore wind power generation industry. The first (2011) and second (2014) projects Marubeni worked on were wind farms in the UK, both of which were acquired from the Danish company that originally owned them. Furthermore, in 2012, Marubeni acquired Seajacks, a leading UK-based offshore wind power installation provider, and was able to build up knowledge and contacts in the offshore wind industry.
At the same time, Marubeni also gained a foothold in Japan as it participated in two government-sponsored demonstration experiments. One was off the coast of Fukushima (in operation between 2013 and 2020) and the other is off the coast of Kitakyushu (in operation from 2019 to present). Both of them are “floating” structures. A floating structure (floating installation) is connected to an anchor on the seabed by a chain, and the wind turbine is placed on top of the floating structure, making it suitable for deep-water areas. As Japan has few shallow coasts, there are high expectations for the full-scale commercialization of these floating structures.
Creating Our Own Supply Chain
By accumulating knowhow through these demonstration experiments, Marubeni has gained even greater new business opportunities. A three-company consortium of British and Danish companies participated in the bidding for ScotWind, a major project to build several wind farms in Scottish waters, and Marubeni won the rights to lease waters off the Aberdeenshire coast for the project. It will build an unprecedentedly large floating wind farm with a total output of 2.6 gigawatts. Marubeni is currently studying the structure and materials needed for the farm and has approached various companies with the aim of starting operation around 2030.
Each of the wind turbines used in the project will be well over 100 meters tall, which is higher than a 50-story skyscraper. Therefore, a single manufacturing facility cannot possibly produce the large amount of equipment needed for these floating turbines in time. Consequently, Marubeni will need to find and coordinate its own supply chain, deciding which facility will make what and how to transport it. “We believe it is important not only to build good power plants and sell them, but also to be involved in the supply chain of offshore wind power generation and contribute to the local economy. We need to change our business model,” says Mr. Hiroshi Tachigami, General Manager, Off-Shore Wind & Domestic Renewable Energy Dept.
Building a supply chain involves developing the industry as a whole and also requires a regional development perspective. This may be an unexplored area, but also one in which a trading company, an organization that specializes in putting together and organizing the various aspects of business, can truly excel. “What we can’t do on our own, we’re bringing people together to do, in exactly the spirit of ‘Together, we can go further,’” agreed Mr. Tachigami and Mr. Manabe.
Mr. Tachigami adds, “Bringing the experience we will gain from the floating wind farm project that we are about to build in Scotland back to Japan could change the future of our country. It will help us achieve a decarbonized society in 20 or 30 years and solve the problem of energy security. Developing offshore wind power, an important source of energy for the future, is an effort we can be proud of for our children’s and grandchildren’s generations.”