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Gov't ponders offshore wind power generation in 4 prefectures

In this July 31, 2015 file photo, a wind turbine is seen off the coast of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The government is exploring the possibility of promoting wind power generation in four prefectures -- Aomori, Akita, Saga and Nagasaki, sources close to the government said.

The government is considering designating offshore areas of these prefectures for the promotion of offshore wind power generation, where such projects can be carried out for up to 30 years.

Designation would be made under a bill on the promotion of the use of offshore areas for sea-based power generation facilities using renewable energy, which has been submitted to the Diet.

The government will set up a consultative body involving the governors of the prefectural governments concerned, the economy, trade and industry minister and the land, infrastructure, transport and tourism minister, among others, as early as this fiscal year to select specific areas.

Strong winds measuring eight meters per second on average blow at altitudes of 30 to 70 meters in wide areas off these four prefectures, according to a survey conducted by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization, which is supervised by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. Therefore, these areas are deemed to be suitable for offshore wind power generation.

Currently, there are only six offshore wind power generators for verification tests across the country. This is because prefectural governments permit the installation of such power generation facilities for only several years under their respective ordinances, preventing investors from launching full-scale offshore wind power generation projects costing massive amounts of money.

Under the bill, the period over which the installation of offshore wind power generators is permitted would be set at a maximum of 30 years in prefectures designated as promotion districts to encourage businesses to launch wind power generation.

The government will aim to designate at least five areas as promotion districts over the next five years or so. In fiscal 2016, the capacity of all wind power generators in Japan, including land-based ones, totaled 3.3 million kilowatts. The government will strive to increase the volume to 10 million kilowatts by fiscal 2030.

The larger the diameter of a wind power generators' windmill, the larger its output. A generator with a windmill of 130 meters in diameter is said to generate power that can meet the demand of 4,200 households a year.

However, it is difficult to transport such huge windmill parts by land. It is easier to install such large wind power generators in offshore areas because parts of such facilities can be transported more easily by sea.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry estimates that up to 1.5 billion kilowatts can be generated by wind power generators if all available offshore areas are fully used.

However, the installation of offshore wind power generators could affect fisheries as well as landscapes. Local residents have launched protests against a plan to install such a facility off the Yamaguchi Prefecture city of Shimonoseki.

The government intends to cautiously consider the areas, assess the impact of such facilities on the environment and see if understanding can be gained from local residents in selecting sites for offshore wind power generators.

(Japanese original by Kazumasa Kawabe, Political News Department)

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