The Japanese government said on Friday it had chosen five sites off the coast of Hokkaido as "promising zones" for developing offshore wind farms, marking the second stage in a three-part selection process.
The move comes as Japan looks to accelerate the development of renewable power to achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
The newly designated promising zones are off Ishikari, Ganu-Minamishiribeshi, Shimamaki, Hiyama and Matsumae on Japan's northern island of Hokkaido.
The five sites were chosen after a government study confirmed they were would have grid connection capability.
The five areas were upgraded from so-called "preparatory zone" which is the first of the three-stage selection process,
after the government defined the appropriate scale of output for the areas and provisionally secured the necessary grid capacity through conducting its own study, instead of having private power companies doing so.
The new study process, known as the "grid security scheme," was introduced last year to help to speed up the development of wind farms, an official at the industry ministry said.
"Promising zone" needs to be upgraded to "promotion zone," which meets all the criteria set by a local law, to become eligible for public auction.
The government will separately announce the result of its annual selection process for windfarm areas in the summer, the ministry official said. This will identify some areas as promotion zones, others as promising and some as preparatory.
Offshore wind is a key driver for Japan's expansion of renewable energy, but the auction process was suspended for nine months last year as the government needed to revise rules after criticism from businesses about the lack of clarity around the bid process following the first major round of auctions.
The consortiums led by Mitsubishi Corp won all three areas in the first round.
(Reuters - Reporting by Yuka Obayashi. Editing by Jane Merriman)