Floating power generation holds promise for post-Fukushima Japan

Artist’s rendering of Sevan Marine’s proposed 700 MW natural gas-fired combined cycle power plant that would float on a cylindrical platform offshore Japan. (Image courtesy of Sevan Marine ASA)

Norwegian offshore oil & gas vessels firm, Sevan Marine ASA, is proposing a unique approach to bringing more power capacity to safety and space-conscious Japan. According to Bloomberg, Sevan is propositioning the development of a $1.5 billion natural gas-fired combined cycle power plant that would float on a cylindrical platform about 30 miles offshore.

Sevan developed the innovative power plant concept in cooperation with Siemens. The 700 MW combined cycle plant would include its own Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) storage and regasification system. Natural gas would be delivered to the plant by LNG carrier directly through cryogenic hoses or by use of a HiLoad LNG unit, according to Sevan. The floating power plant could also allow for a CO2 extraction/compression facility integrated in the hull with a capture capacity of up to 90 percent.

Japan has been pressed with maintaining its energy capacity since the shutdown of its entire nuclear power fleet in 2011 following the natural disasters that prompted meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear complex.  In response to Fukushima, Japan has set its attentions on overhauling its nuclear safety standards and expanding its alternative energy resources. Beyond safety concerns, the island nation is also challenged with finding space for new power capacity as demand grows. 

Because of these top level concerns, offshore energy generation presents itself as a very attractive solution for Japan. Development of floating facilities would lessen the burden of finding and competing for land area for new assets while also boosting safety by reducing vulnerability to certain natural disasters. Recognizing the potential, the nation is already pressing ahead with development of floating renewable energy projects.

Utility-scale floating solar project will utilize Ciel et Terre’s Hydrelio floating solar platforms in two installations, totaling 2.9 MW at Nishihira Pond and Higashihira Pond in Kato City, Japan. Toshimitsu Motegi, a member of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the former minister of economy, trade and industry, told Bloomberg Japan is primarily focused on floating offshore wind, but still desired to push “various types of technical development and research” for floating power stations. Currently in the works are a floating wind power project off the coast of Fukushima and floating solar facilities installed on reservoirs in Kato City.

Entering its second phase is the Fukushima Floating Offshore Wind Demonstration Project (Fukushima FORWARD), which brings together a consortium of ten private industry firms, the University of Tokyo, and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Under development since 2012, Fukushima FORWARD has seen the successful launch of one 2 MW floating wind turbine and the world’s first 25MVA floating substation and undersea cable off the coast of Fukushima. Phase 2 of Fukushima FORWARD will encompass two 7 MW floating wind turbines scheduled for installation before 2015.

Most recently, Kyocera, Century Tokyo Leasing and Ciel et Terre announced that they will begin construction this month on the world’s largest floating solar installation. The utility-scale floating solar project will utilize Ciel et Terre’s Hydrelio floating solar platforms in two installations, totaling 2.9 MW at Nishihira Pond and Higashihira Pond in Kato City, Japan. The 1.7 MW plant planned at Nishihira Pond will become the world’s largest solar power generating system installed on water.1 Start of operation is scheduled for April 2015.

Learn more about the Sevan floating power plant project here: Sevan Power Plant Concept Presentation

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1 World’s largest floating solar power plant in terms of output (as of September 3, 2014).

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