June 13 (Bloomberg) — Goldman Sachs Group Inc., the New York-based bank planning as much as 300 billion yen ($3.19 billion) in renewable energy investments in Japan, is eyeing offshore wind power after building up holdings in more established clean energy sources such as solar.
Japan Renewable Energy Co. was set up by Goldman in August after Japan began offering above-market rates to producers of clean energy. The incentives, or feed-in tariffs, have spurred investments in renewables, setting Japan on course this year to become one of the world’s largest solar markets by annual installations.
The company sees offshore wind as promising, Shigeru Yasu, a representative director at Japan Renewable Energy, said in an interview in Tokyo yesterday. Geothermal and biomass power also hold potential, he said.
“It takes three to four years to do an environmental impact study for an onshore wind project with more than 10 megawatts of capacity,” Yasu said. “Projects with larger capacity are more attractive because an environmental study requires the same amount of time even for a 500-megawatt offshore farm.”
Japan Renewable Energy plans in the next five years to invest as much as 50 billion yen directly into clean energy projects with capital provided by GS Infrastructure Partners. It will take as much as 250 billion yen of loans for project financing, Takahisa Nakagawa, also a representative director at Japan Renewable Energy, said in the interview. The investments and loans will amount to about 1,000 megawatts of clean energy, he said.
Wind power is more challenging than solar for a developer because it requires prior investment such as an environmental impact study, Nakagawa said, adding that his company has the advantage of having people with expertise in wind power.
Japan’s offshore wind market — 31 megawatts in cumulative capacity — lags behind countries like the U.K. and Denmark with 3,093 megawatts and 923 megawatts of capacity, respectively, according to 2012 data compiled by Bloomberg.
Offshore wind typically requires approval from local fishermen before projects can move ahead and costs more for installation and maintenance than onshore wind.
Japan Renewable Energy is considering more than 300 megawatts worth of solar projects, Nakagawa said. The company will use panels by LS Industrial Systems Co., a South Korean electric and industrial equipment maker, at least for its first four plants.
LSIS was picked because it offers quality products for less compared with Japanese makers and because panels aren’t the only product the company produces, the officials said.
“There are big pureplay solar panel companies that went bankrupt and that’s worrisome,” Yasu said. “Even though a company offers 20 years of warranty, it’s no good if the company won’t be around 20 years later.”
Japan is set to overtake Germany as the world’s largest solar market, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said last month.
Developers may install 6.9 gigawatts to 9.4 gigawatts of solar in Japan in 2013, the London-based research agency said. Germany led solar installations in 2012 with 7.6 gigawatts of capacity. Cumulative global solar energy installations reached 102 gigawatts for the first time in 2012, according to preliminary BNEF data.
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