;Japan's industry ministry said on Friday it has designated three "promotion areas" off the coast of Nagasaki, Niigata and Akita prefectures for developing offshore wind farms, while selecting five "promising areas" and 11 "potentially suitable areas".
The newly designated promotion areas are off Saikai, Nagasaki in southwestern Japan, off Murakami, Niigata and off Oga, Akita in northern Japan.
The ministry plans to start auctions for these areas to select operators after revising bidding rules, it said in a statement.
Offshore wind is a driver for Japan's expansion of renewable energy, but the auction process has been suspended since March to revise rules after criticism from businesses about the lack of clarity around the bid process following the first major round of auctions last December.
Three consortiums led by Mitsubishi Corp won all three offshore wind power projects in the first major round of auctions.
In June, the ministry said it aims to resume auctions by the end of this year, after revising rules to draw a wider range of bidders and encourage faster development of new infrastructure. It is still not clear when the rule change will take place.
The new promising areas, which are expected to be designated as promotion zones in the near future, include Aomori and Yamagata prefectures in northern Japan and Chiba prefecture near Tokyo.
The new potentially suitable areas include five zones in northern island of Hokkaido.
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi/Editing by Frances Kerry)
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