TOKYO, July 3 (Reuters) - Japan's first offshore wind farm is set to start generating electricity in January, a government agency said, as the country looks to diversify away from nuclear power, as well as pricey oil and liquefied natural gas.
Although the 2.4 megawatt (MW) demonstration facility has been in the pipeline for years, it starts as the country's energy landscape is shifting dramatically in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Japan hopes to begin building commercial offshore wind farms in several years, following the trail blazed by Europe and especially world leader Britain, which has taken advantage of its long, windy coastline.
The environment ministry has estimated Japan has the potential to eventually build a huge 1,600 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity, though it would have to overcome a raft of technological problems to get there. The nation's current nuclear capacity stands at 46.15 GW.
Under the FIT scheme, Japanese utilities must buy electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal at pre-set premiums for up to 20 years.
The wind facility, off the coast of Choshi, east of Tokyo, is being jointly developed by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and Tokyo Electric Power, which ran the crippled Fukushima Daiichi atomic plant.
NEDO is also teaming up with Electric Power Development Co (J-Power) to build a 2 MW offshore wind farm off the coast of Kitakyushu in southwestern Japan that will start generating power as early as May next year.
Reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Joseph Radford