As the offshore wind market starts to heat up in Japan, we caught up with WT’s Gerry Murphy from our Tokyo office to find out more about opportunities and challenges within the market and where there is potential for Wood Thilsted to provide valuable expertise to help bolster the Japanese offshore wind market.

What are the opportunities for Wood Thilsted in Japan?

There is a large project pipeline already defined in Japan and we believe that WT can make a positive contribution to support Japan meet its ambitious renewable energy targets. Currently, the auction system is running a little behind the initial target schedule and the market is keen to make up for lost time. This coupled with increased supply chain costs will increase focus on design efficiency and optimisation and WT’s advanced engineering approach will help our clients improve their competitiveness in the upcoming auctions as well reduce design and development timeline.

Now that our detailed design work for the Akita and Noshiro project is completed, WT’s current focus in Japan is supporting developers through the pre-auction site condition surveys and concept design process. WT are currently active in every aspect of pre-auction support from early stage site-feasibility assessments to site survey specification, survey management, foundation design as well as pre-auction T&I and procurement advice.

Can you highlight any specific strengths WT can bring to the Japanese market?

Japan has a deep history of technological and engineering excellence. However, as there has only been one commercial scale offshore wind project completed in Japan, the domestic industry is still on a steep learning curve. WT brings experience from detailed design projects across the globe and specifically from regions with similar challenging typhoon and seismic conditions such as the US and Taiwan. This knowledge, paired with our experience to date on Japanese projects, makes WT an ideal partner for local developers and it has been very exciting and rewarding to also collaborate with local consultancies and contractors.

With a focus on the unique design regulations and practice in Japan, developed additional modules for our modules within our in-house design software to carry out the additional Japan specific design checks and seismic analysis as required in the domestic regulations. Our highly automated software can also minimise the time to adopt any recommendations from the certification committee into the design.

WT’s expertise in site investigation is also major strength for supporting the market in Japan. As the number of projects under development have increased, the domestic offshore survey supply chain is in high demand. Japan’s cabotage regulations also prevent foreign flagged vessels carrying out surveys and further limits survey equipment availability. This has constrained the survey timelines on many projects and careful planning is necessary to develop survey specifications that address the site-specific risks and uncertainties. WTs expertise in initial site studies and site investigation can support with understanding the critical site risks and developing the optimum survey strategy to for the available equipment and operations windows.

Are there any challenges you foresee the Japanese market facing?

Uncertainty surrounding the certification requirements and timeline remain a key concern for our clients. This issue is being widely discussed in Japan and efforts are underway to clarify and streamline the process. The requirements and advice on best practice in Japan are still evolving and further changes are anticipated. For example, as only one commercial scale project using monopiles has been certified there is currently no precedent or guidance regarding the use improved design approaches such as the PISA method which have become standard practice in other regions. This may make it difficult for projects to realise potential design efficiencies and adds uncertainty to the development schedule.

The availability of suitable port infrastructure and construction vessels are also seen as challenges to the development of offshore wind in Japan. As foundation designers we need to work closely with our clients to ensure that the design is not only optimised in terms of steel mass but that it can be transported and constructed safely with the available equipment in Japan. Our experience in supporting the transport and installation at the Akita and Noshiro project gives us valuable insight into the domestic challenges and allows us to advise and engage with our clients at an early stage to reduce the risk of design changes after award.

The site conditions in Japan are also very challenging which provides an excellent opportunity for the Japanese market to access WT’s site assessment expertise. Typhoon metocean conditions and Japan’s highly active seismic conditions generate extremely challenging loading challenges. Japan’s location on the Pacific ring of fire has also resulted in very complex geological setting due to folding and faulting. This results in highly variable soil and rock conditions within relatively short distances. WT’s geotechnical expertise and our experience in interpreting site investigation data and developing robust ground models allows us to map the uncertainties and develop reliable design parameters.

What makes WT well placed for this market?

WT is already experienced working in the Japanese market as we were closely involved on Akita and Noshiro, Japan’s first commercial scale offshore wind farm. WT provided detailed design advisory for secondary steel and WT Director Amir Shajarati spent time here in Japan advising on the foundation design too. This project gave us valuable hands on experience in project delivery in Japan and key insights into regulations in Japan, resulting in optimal integration with best practice and experiences from other projects and more established markets.

What are you most looking forward to about the market in Japan?

I’ve worked in offshore wind for almost my entire career and it is an industry that I am genuinely passionate about. Over the past five years I‘ve been fortunate to contribute to several offshore wind projects across Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. In my opinion, Japanese project sites pose some unique design challenges for foundation designers. At WT we strive to be the best in the industry and I believe that at these challenging sites our expertise can really come to the fore and deliver quality to our clients. As the Japanese offshore wind industry is still in a relatively early stage of development there is a lot of scope for the designer to work in partnership with their clients to share knowledge and to make a meaningful difference to the projects and this has always been my goal as an engineer.

I look forward to continuing to lead WT’s Tokyo business and further developing our relationships with our clients. Re-establishing WT’s presence in Japan has been a very rewarding experience and I’m excited about our future prospects and growing a team to continue the journey.

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