Floating Offshore Wind in Japan – an interview with Marine Power Systems

Export to Japan had the opportunity to speak to Marine Power Systems (MPS) at the 2023 WIND EXPO during the World Smart Energy Week in Tokyo (14-17 March). MPS provide floating offshore wind (FOW) turbine platforms and tethering system to support offshore wind in the deeper waters that line the Japanese coast. MPS employ a hydraulic tensioning system that tethers to a minimal seabed footprint – providing a solution that is much more considerate to marine ecosystems than the other options on the market.

We need to demonstrate that we’ve got a technology that resolves the concerns.

Martin Carruth, Commercial Director of MPS, explained that they want to make sure they get it right and have all stakeholders supportive of the deployment of the technology. The stakeholder management process in Japan is much more complex than in the UK, and clear demonstration of how everyone is considered is essential. The multiple cooperatives, fisheries and other organisations, which all have different requirements, all need engaging. Such organisations wield sufficient influence in Japan and can potentially shut a project down.

“We need to demonstrate that we’ve got a technology that resolves the concerns of the fisheries… turn it around to show positive benefit for local communities and their livelihoods.”

The Japanese Tier 1 companies in the energy market understand the need to diversify into renewables to meet targets in the transition to net zero. The great potential of MPS is that the component parts can be manufactured domestically, leveraging the existing supply chain.

“What they like about MPS is that it is modular and scalable.”  

Given the solution offered by MPS it was relatively quick to get partners on-board. The opportunity for simple deployment using existing domestic supply chain capability can ensure they can deliver the system at scale, and at reduced costs. Martin told us that there had already been interest at WIND EXPO from fabricators and steel suppliers that can help produce components in Japan.

What they like about MPS is that it is modular and scalable.  

Another fundamental challenge of FOW is the accelerated wear and tear suffered under the additional movement in the water compared to fixed bottom systems. The tethering used to fix the MPS platform offers ‘zero tilt’ and is the most stable on the market. This further reduces costs at the operational stage.

A strong local partner is critical to delivering the MPS technology in Japan. As they talk to developers, they see the value of collaborating with their Japanese partner, JGC. JGC have an established record of accomplishment and solid reputation in Japan. This provides a great degree of credibility in the offer presented by MPS.

MPS have also seen great value from the support of the Welsh government. It has helped to identify developers and receive local representation.

MPS work in partnership with FibreMax for the supply of the tendons for the tethering system – a Japanese company manufactures the core fibre component. It a small fact that further supports credibility when Japanese developers can see the Japanese supply chain is already involved.

Martin gives encouragement to Japan to accelerate their offshore wind program, given international competition. Anticipating that rapid development of offshore wind capability in other regional markets (Korea, Taiwan) may prompt them to expand their support internationally, if Japan fails to build its domestic program at pace, set targets and policy to speed up deployment, the valuable injection to support the Japanese supply chain may suffer.

In Martin’s opinion, Japan shows the most promise in the longer term in the region. MPS have prioritised investing in Japan before exploring further market opportunities in the region.