Saturday, December 24, 2011

No. 32: Cosmo Oil participates in the offshore wing farming business (December 24, 2011)

CosmoOil plans to operate offshore wing farming plants, each of which is made up of more than 10 windmills, offshore of the Tohoku and other districts early 2020. Cosmo’s subsidiary EcoPower has already started the feasibility study offshore of Iwate Prefecture and offshore of Ibaraki Prefecture. The company plans to build plants in waters 15-20 meters deep about several kilometers away from the coast. It will conduct research on the wind on the waters and the geography of the seabed using a special ship starting in 2012. Each of the planned plants has an output ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 kW. The construction cost is estimated to exceed 10 billion yen per plant. EcoPower is the fourth largest operator of wind power generation, and it is currently operating about 130 land wind generation facilities.

Japan has lots of suitable areas for offshore wind farming because it has the sixth largest exclusive economic zone in the world. Some predict that offshore wind farming will have a generation capacity of about 13 million kW around 2030. That is, it will have two times higher capacity than the land wind generation, and the generation capacity of 13 million kW is equivalent to the generation capacity of 13 nuclear power plants. Japan will enforce the system that requires electric power companies to buy the whole amount of electricity generated by renewable energy at a fixed price in July 2012. J-Power and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry are planning to do the substantiative experiment of offshore wind farming after 2012.     

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

No. 31: Ongoing development of the organic solar battery (December 21, 2011)

The development of organic solar batteries is accelerating. The technology of organic solar battery is to cover the walls and curved surfaces of a building and the roof, doors, and body of a vehicle. Although a large flat space is needed to install a solar battery, an organic solar battery is free from restrictions on installation space because it is a film. Mitsubishi Chemical takes the lead in the development of organic solar battery. It organized the generation layer using an organic material that emits electrons and fullerene that is the representative material of nanotechnology. The company already achieved the generation efficiency of 10% that is the highest rate achieved by an organic solar battery so far. It plans to launch film organic solar batteries and market them to automakers and building material producers in 2012.

Because the finished product is a film, it hardly weighs besides being flexible. It is less than one millimeter thick and almost free from any restrictions on installation space. Accordingly, it is realistic to build a vehicle covered entirely with the film organic solar battery. The company is conducting market research on the product that integrates a wall material and an organic solar battery based on amorphous silicon with a view to installing it on building walls and rolling it on the iron pole of the base station of mobile phones. While amorphous silicon-based products spread, crystalline silicone will spread to be used for the large-scale photovoltaic power plant called mega solar.

SumitomoChemical is also developing organic solar batteries using not fullerene but polymer materials. Thanks to the efforts of these companies, a new business domain of photovoltaic generation is being established.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

No. 30: On small storage equipment (December 15, 2011)

Families equipped with a solar battery were able to use power in the daytime and give their neighbors an opportunity to take a bath in the disaster-stricken areas during the Fukushima disaster. As this story shows, generation equipment and storage equipment allow households to use the minimum amount of electricity necessary for daily life even though power supply from an electric power company is shut down. In this sense, household storage equipment and movable storage equipment will grow more important for the construction of a future energy system. In addition, operating such a distributed energy system as fuel battery that generates electricity from hydrogen requires storage equipment to allow for self-sustained operation of the system.

The current four major secondary chargeable batteries are lead battery, sodium sulfur battery, lithium-ion battery, and lithium air battery. The theoretical energy density is 165 kW, 786 kW, 583 kW, and 11,700 kW, respectively. Lithium-ion batteries are most popular at present, but excess voltage and low voltage greatly affect them. After the Fukushima disaster, household storage systems using a lithium-ion battery were commercialized by consumer electronics makers. They are mostly sold for 400,000-500,000 yen per kW. A household storage system is supposed to be put on the market for a little higher 100,000 yen per kW in 2012. Because a standard family with three members consumes about electricity of 3 kW per day, the price range a little higher than 100,000 yen is supposed to make a storage system spread wider.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No. 29: On storage equipment (December 14, 2011)

Storage equipment is vital to level off the supply-demand gap of power between the daytime and nighttime, given the fact that renewable energy susceptible to weather and geographically-distributed power generation are expected to spread in the future. At present, sodium sulfur storage battery is commercialized. It employs metal sodium for anode, sulfur for cathode, and ceramics called beta alumina for electrolyte. It charges and discharges at 300-350 degrees centigrade, and it has a life of about 15 years. It has an energy density of about 100 watts per kilogram comparable to that of a lithium-ion battery. It enjoys high expectations as a stationery large-scale storage at present. Currently, only NGK Insulators produces and markets this kind of storage battery. It has an annual production capacity of 150,000 kW on an output basis.

The sodium nickel chloride storage battery that uses beta alumina for electrolyte like the sodium sulfur storage battery is also a high-capacity storage battery that operates at a high temperature. It is expected to be widely used in the future for delivery trucks and taxies that have to bear continuous load. In addition, another storage technology is available for surplus power from large plants that generates power using renewable energy, such as large-scale photovoltaic power plant called mega solar power plant. It electrolyzes water using surplus power, and produces and stores hydrogen. The stored hydrogen is converted to energy with the help of a fuel cell as necessary. However, lots of technological issues, such as increasing the efficiency of electrolysis of water and securing safety production and storage of hydrogen, are need to be settled to spread this technology.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

No. 28: A new small-sized solar battery that generates electricity with room illumination (December 12, 2011)

HitachiZosen will enter into the solar battery business with a newly-developed solar battery that can generate electricity with such room illumination as a fluorescent lamp. It sandwiches a layer of a special pigment that generates electricity by absorbing light between two films. It is a kind of solar battery called the dye-sensitised solar battery. The company developed this new solar battery in alliance with Peccel Technologies in Yokohama.

The new product piles up the self-developed pigment, electrode, and conductive membrane between two plastic film wafers. The pigment inside reacts to the light and generates electricity. It is as thin as about 0.5 mm and bendable. It is to be applied to the auxiliary power source for such small electronics devices as mobile phone and remote controller. The company will start to ship samples in April 2012 and plans to put it into practical use in 2016.   

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No. 27: Increasing production of ethylene carbonate for lithium-ion batteries (December 9, 2011)

MitsubishiChemical will quadruple the production of ethylene carbonate that is a material for lithium-ion battery. It currently produces 2,000 tons annually in Ibaraki Prefecture, but it will expand the production facilities with an investment of one billion yen to increase the production capacity to 8,000 annually toward 2013. Because eco cars including electric vehicles are spreading fast, the company plans to satisfy the growing demand by expanding the production capacity.  

Ethylene carbonate is a material for the electrolyte of a lithium-ion battery. The company has established the technology to produce highly-pure ethylene carbonate at low cost from ethylene glycol that is a raw material for polyester fiber. It plans to increase the competitive advantage through mass production. It will renovate the existing plant in Ibaraki Prefecture to increase the production capacity to 150% of the present level by next spring, and build a new plant with a production capacity of 5,000 tons annually by 2013. Mitsubishi’s ethylene carbonate is shipped to Toyama Chemical that is one of the leading producers of electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries. As always, competition in the rapidly growing business is subject to economies of scale backed up by capital strength.  

Monday, December 5, 2011

No. 26: Japanese solar thermal generation technology goes to Italy (December 6, 2011)

ChiyodaCorp. will construct a pilot plant for the solar thermal generation project that uses high-temperature molten salt for heat conducting fluid in alliance with Archimede Solar Energy (ASE) of Italy. The pilot plant will be constructed inside Archmiede’s premises northeast of Rome toward August 2012. The output is scheduled to be about 200 kW. In Italy, a demonstration plant is operating in Sicilia under the initiative of an Italian electric power company. Because it is colder in Rome than in Sicilia, Chiyoda wishes to appeal its technology to collect heat required for generation if sunlight is available even in a severe environment, and test the heat collection system and the functionality of the plant. 

Unlike the conventional system that uses synthetic oil for heat medium, the new plant can be operated by increasing the temperature of the heat medium to about 150 degrees centigrade, making it possible to increase generation efficiency, simplify equipment, and reduce investment. Italy plans to construct multiple solar thermal generation plants of the high-temperature molten salt type with an output of more than 10 kW. Chiyoda concluded an agreement with ASE that has the manufacturing technology of heat collection pipes necessary to use high-temperature molten salt for heat medium in June 2011.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

No. 25: Hitachi Zosen participates in the facility construction of offshore wind farming (December 5, 2011)

HitachiZosen will enter the offshore wind farming business next year. The company developed its own wind generation plant that costs 30% less than the existing wind generation plants by employing the self-developed floating body. It will conduct the substantiate experiment starting 2014 and commercialize the generation plant toward 2016. The price of a plant is expected to be 2-3 billion yen.

Hitachi’s plant is the floating body type that has fixed windmills on it. This type is in the stage of substantiative experiment worldwide, and IHI is also developing this type of wind generation plant. Utilizing its own offshore engineering technology, Hitachi will develop an original floating body that is wider horizontally as compared with products from competitors. By increasing the stability of the windmills, the technology can simplify the construction to moor the floating body. Japan has a wide exclusive economic zone because it is surrounded by the sea, and lots of areas are supposed to be available for offshore wind farming. It is estimated that offshore wind farming will have an output of 13 million kW in 2030, about two times more output estimated for land wind generation.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

No. 24: On new type fuel cells (2/2) (December 2, 2011)

The solid oxide type has several advantages over the solid high molecule type. One of them is that the treatment process of fuel can be simplified. The latter accepts only highly pure hydrogen as fuel. Ene Farm needs very sophisticated treatment to collect highly pure hydrogen from city gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), resulting in energy loss and a high-cost structure of the system. In the case of the solid oxide type, city gas and LPG can be introduced directly into the module of a fuel cell and modified inside the system. Accordingly, the system can be simplified.

Another advantage is an increase of generation efficiency. Because the loss generated in the process of fuel can be reduced, the solid oxide type has 5% higher generation efficiency than solid high molecule type (41% vs. 36%). And technological progress may be able to improve the generation efficiency further. At the same time, the solid oxide type accepts a smaller hot-water tank because the storage temperature can be set higher. The system of the solid oxide type could be two thirds of the system of the high molecule type. This makes it possible to reduce the installation cost and install the system in the place where it cannot be installed at present. Actually, the industry strongly expects the solid oxide type to be widespread after it is commercialized.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

No. 23: On new type fuel cells (1/2) (December 1, 2011)

Basically, there are three kinds of fuel cells depending on electrolyte employed, and the operation temperature varies with the kind of electrolyte. The solid high molecule type that uses polymer electrolyte has an operation temperature of about 80 degrees centigrade. Commercialized in 2009, it uses hydrogen as fuel. It has generation efficiency of about 36%. The phosphoric acid type that uses phosphoric acid solution as electrolyte has an operation temperature of about 200 degrees centigrade. Commercialized in 1998, it uses hydrogen as fuel. It has generation capacity of about 38%. The solid oxide type that uses oxide as electrolyte has an operation temperature of about 800 degrees centigrade. It will be commercialized late 2011, and it uses hydrogen and city gas as fuel. It has generation capacity of about 41%.  

The phosphoric acid type launched in 1998 is a system suitable well for large power demand in the level of 100 kW, and it is installed in schools and office buildings. Lots of efforts are being made to develop the solid oxide type that will be put on the market as the second-generation Ene Farm. The big difference between the solid oxide type and solid high molecule type for household use is the operation temperature. Because the solid oxide type operates at such a high temperature of 800 degrees centigrade, it has various advantages over the solid high molecule type. (To be continued)   

No. 22: On fuel cell Ene Farm (November 30, 2011)

Household fuel cell was put on the market in 2009 under the uniform name of Ene Farm. The latest thermal plant generates 53 power out of fuel with 100 energy amount, and the remaining 47 is heat waste. Out of the 53 power, 48 is delivered to households because loss incurred in power distribution is unavoidable. Whereas, Ene Farm that generates by dint of the reaction between hydrogen collected form gas and oxygen supplies a household with 36 power and 45 heat (hot water) because it uses waste heat generated in power generation.

The present Ene Farm employs a solid polymer molecule fuel cell that uses high molecule electrolyte. In the initial stage, an Ene Farm was priced at 3,500,000 yen and a subsidy of 1,400,000 yen was available for the purchase. It is now 2,800,000 yen with a 1,050,000 subsidy. The price reduction can be attributed to reducing the generation capacity from 1 kW to 750 watts and decreasing the number of parts, in addition to the technological development to optimize the system to each household.

About 5,000 Ene Farms were sold in 2009. The sales increased to 7,000 units in 2010. Because of the growing concern since the Fukushima disaster, the sales as of July 7 2011 were about 8,000 units. Because a taxation incentive is offered to those who purchased an Ene Farm, the sales are expected to grow further in the future. In addition to decreasing a unit price, what is required is to increase the generation efficiency and develop a system to install an Ene Farm in a housing complex where demand is averaged. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

No. 21: On wind generation and offshore wind farming (November 28, 2011)

In wind generation, wind power is proportionate to the area that receives wind and to the cube of wind velocity. That is why location is a critical factor for wind generation. At present, the horizontal-axis propeller windmill is widespread because it can easily be made bigger in size, and the vertical-axis type that can generate electricity regardless of wind direction. Wind generation has been increasing presence both at home and abroad. Wind generation has a combined generation capacity of 194 million kW worldwide as of the end of 2010. The world leader in wind generation is China that has a capacity of 42 million kW, surpassing the U.S.

Japan has a capacity of 2.4 million kW at present. It has several problems with the introduction of wind generation, such as the extra cost to make the facilities resistant to typhoons and thunderstorms and a large amount of cost to acquire land for the facilities. In particular, land acquisition cost needs studies and examinations. Deforestation is necessary to build facilities and expand the roads for transportation of equipment and machinery. At the same time, health damage caused by noise and low-frequency sound if facilities are built in the vicinity of a residential area.

According to the report on potential renewable energy in Japan published by the Ministry of Environment, Japan has a potential capacity of wind generation between 24 million kW and 415 million kW. It is reasonable to estimate that Japan will have a generation capacity of 30 million kW on the condition the current efforts are made in the future. Because Japan is surrounded by the sea, offshore wind farming attracts strong attention. However, In addition to reducing the cost and developing technology, it is necessary to modify relative legal systems to foster the coexistence of offshore wind farming and ocean right including fishery right.

Wind generation is strongly characterized by regionality because of the necessity of wind. It is and will be mainly installed in northern part of Japan, such as Hokkaido and the Tohoku district. Therefore, even if wind generation accounts for only 10% of Japan’s total power demand, it will almost accounts for 100% of the power demand in northern districts. It is urgent to develop technology for the coordination of wide-range power distribution grips and the stability of power systems.   

Saturday, November 19, 2011

No. 20: Small-scale hydraulic generation is spreading (November 20, 2011)

The law that asks electric power companies to purchase all electricity generated by renewable energy will be enacted next year, and the move to build a small-scale hydraulic plant through the collaboration between a local government and a private company is spreading. Nomura Agri Planning & Advisory will build a small-scale hydraulic plant in Tochigi Prefecture on trial. The company will install a generation with an output of 10 kW in two locations in the irrigation canal inside the prefecture to conduct feasibility study next spring, and commercialize the technology in 2013. The prefectural government will help the company by simplifying the complicated procedures involved in irrigation right. A subsidiary of Mitsui Mining and Smelting will build a hydraulic plant that generate electricity using water of two rivers running in its premises with an investment of 1 billion yen. Nippon Koei will start to build a hydraulic plant in Kagoshima Prefecture coming December. The plant will have a generation capacity of 460 kW and start operations in April 2013.

Japan has more than 20,000 locations suitable for small-scale hydraulic generation. Although each of them has a generation capacity less than 30,000 kW on average, they together are estimated to have a potential generation capacity of 15 million kW, about the same generation capacity of 15 nuclear power plants. Local governments that support the projects are serious about promoting renewal energy business. Because water volume does not fluctuate greatly, hydraulic generation is more stable than photovoltaic generation and wind generation in terms of output. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry estimates the generation cost of a small-scale hydraulic plant at 10-35 yen per kW depending on the location. To promote small-scale hydraulic generation, the Japanese government is considering revising the river law and deregulating the procedures involved in irrigation right.   

Saturday, November 12, 2011

No. 19: On photovoltaic generation in Japan (November 12, 2011)

Photovoltaic generation is expected to grow widespread as a generation technology because it is environmentally friendly. All Japanese companies involved are exerting lots of energy to develop the Japanese photovoltaic generation technology to be highly competitive in the world market. It is urgent for them to increase the energy exchange efficiency to higher than 18%. The photovoltaic generation roadmap published in 2009, it is scheduled to be increased to 20% in 2020 and 40% in 2050.

According to the estimated by New Energy and Industrial Technology DevelopmentOrganization (NEDO), it is expected that the exchange efficiency will be 20%, generation cost will be less than 14 yen per kW, and national annual output of photovoltaic generation will be 2-3 million kW in 2020, and the three figures are expected to be 40%, 7 yen per kW, and 25-35 million kW in 2050. If these targets are achieved, the area necessary for photovoltaic generation per kW will decrease drastically, making it possible to install a system in a small space.

Theoretically, the maximum exchange efficiency of silicon semiconductor prevailing most in photovoltaic generation is 27%. Accordingly, researchers are developing photovoltaic cells made of other chemical compounds. In addition, they are trying the tandem type that layers multiple materials, quantum dot type that uses fine particles, and light focusing type that collects light using lens. Currently, a new residential house can introduce a photovoltaic generation system with a generation capacity of 3 kW for about 900,000 yen (about 750,000 with subsidy). In view of the current technological progress, it may not be a dream that most houses in Japan will have a photovoltaic generation system in the future.

The large-scale photovoltaic power plant called mega solar has also been increasing presence because it can intensively control the unstable distribution grids caused by the output fluctuations. However, it creates transmission loss between the plant and households. In addition, maintenance does not create constant employment in the region. A vast land is required to build a large-scale photovoltaic power plant. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

No. 18: Nation’s biggest photovoltaic power plant will be built in Aichi Prefecture (November 11, 2011)

A total of six companies including Mitsui Chemical and Toshiba have decided to build the national’s largest photovoltaic power plant in Aichi Prefecture with an investment of about 18 billion yen. The construction will start in June 2012, and the plant is schedule for completion in September 2013. All the power generated by this plant will be sold to Chubu Electric Power Company. As the special measures law of renewable energy will be put into effect in July next year, it is likely that a large size project of this kind is supposed to start in succession in Japan.

The mega plant will be built in the 820,000-square-meter idle land owned by Mitsui Chemical. Solar panels with a combined capacity of 50,000 kW will be laid on the area. A wind generation plant with a capacity of 6,000 kW will also be built in this area. The plant will be able to generate power sufficient to satisfy the demand of about 19,000 households. There are two mega photovoltaic power plants at present. The plant in Sakai near Osaka has a capacity of 28,000 kW, and the plant in Kawasaki near Tokyo has a capacity of 20,000 kW. The new mega plant in Aichi Prefecture will have the nation’s largest, surpassing these two mega plants.

The special measures law to be enacted next July asks electric power companies to purchase all amount of power generated by renewable energy at a relatively high price for the next 15-20 years. The specific amount and specific period for the purchase will be decided early next year.  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No. 17: Using earth thermal for the air-conditioning of convenience stores (November 10, 2011)

Japan’s largest convenience store chain Seven-Eleven will start an experiment to use earth thermal for the air-conditioning of its stores. Using the piles to be driven into the store underground, the system will circulate water that is warmer than outside air in winter and cool in summer, thereby reduce the power used for air-conditioning by about 30%. In the initial stage, the company will install the system in three stores. The experiment will start early next year. The system was developed by JFE Engineering.

According to JFE Engineering, earth thermal is constant at 17 degrees centigrade all the year round in Tokyo. Using the circulating water, the system lets heat go in the ground in summer and collects heat in the ground in winter. To build a convenience store on soft ground, it is necessary to drive 20-30 piles, each of which is 10-20 m long, into the ground. The system fills the piles with water and inserts pipes for circulating water connected to the outdoor equipment for air-conditioning in the piles. As Seven Eleven will build about 400 stores on the soft ground, it will introduce the system to them depending on the results of the experiment. Since the system requires an initial investment of 7-8 million yen per store, reducing the price through mass production is vital for its spread. New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization will bear two thirds of the cost necessary to introduce the system into the three stores.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No. 16: On photovoltaic generation in Japan (November 9, 2011)

A module of photovoltaic generation is installed on a roof with a power conditioner, a power monitor, and electric wiring. In the early stage, the price of silicon thin film used as the semiconductor accounted for the largest part of a unit price. Thanks to technological innovation, the price of silicon thin film has been decreasing. However, as silicon materials are growing higher in price because of speculation, the development of silicon-free photovoltaic generation invites a wide attention lately.

Output of photovoltaic generation depends on the generation efficiency and amount of sunlight. The lower the temperature is, the higher efficiency a semiconductor exhibits. This is why the cold area is suitable for photovoltaic generation. However, photovoltaic generation cannot generate power when snow covers the generation module in the cold area. Naturally, photovoltaic generation generates power only in daytime, and its output peaks at 12:00 noon. Therefore, a household has surplus power in daytime and shortage in nighttime. It is totally impossible to adjust power supply and power demand in photovoltaic generation. Electric power companies purchase surplus power created in daytime and provide the shortage to households in nighttime to adjust the gap.

The present purchase system works well because photovoltaic generation accounts for merely 0.5% of all power supply at present. However, as photovoltaic generation is expected to increase the share to 20-30% in the future, the system to store power by dint of a storage battery is critical. It is not too much to say that the future of photovoltaic generation depends on the development of a high performance and highly efficient storage battery.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No. 15: On pumped storage generation in Japan (November 8, 2011)

Pumped storage generation is the system to generate electricity using the potential energy between the upper reservoir and lower reservoir. It pumps up water in the lower reservoir to the upper reservoir using surplus power when power supply is not tight. Therefore, it needs facilities to store water. Tokyo Electric Power has the maximum electricity supply of 55 million kW, of which 7 million is from pumped storage generation.

Pumped storage generation is mostly large-scale. For example, the plant that Tokyo Electric is expanding in Gunma Prefecture will have the world’s largest generation capacity of 2,820,000 million kW, a drastic increase from the current 470,000 kW. This plant will start operations after 2020. However, as the pondage of the upper reservoir means the maximum generation capacity, the new plant can operate for nine hours per day at the longest. Because of the limit of the pumpage volume, it is impossible to operate the system to 100%. Before the Fukushima disaster, most power used to pump up water during nighttime was nuclear power, but power from thermal power generation is currently used instead.

The energy efficiency of pumped storage generation is about 70%. That is, 30% of thermal power used to pump up water in nighttime is wasted, and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by thermal generation increases. In addition, power generated by old and inefficient thermal power facilities is currently used for pumped storage generation. Despite these facts, however, there is no suitable and promising technology to replace pumped storage generation. It seems the best way to operate pumped storage generation as an emergency measure in extreme hot days when power supply is rather tight.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

No. 14: On hydraulic power generation in Japan (November 7, 2011)

Hydraulic power generation has a long history in Japan, and Japan maintains a high level of technology in hydraulic power generation. The run-off-river-type power generation that draws river water can replace nuclear power generation, but most locations suitable for large capacity run-off-river-type power generation have already been developed in Japan. The initial investment in facility construction has a large share in generation cost in case of hydraulic power generation. Although generation equipment has generally has a life of 40 years in power generation, more than half of the equipment currently used in hydraulic power generation has been operating for more than 60 years.

It is possible to lengthen the life by proper maintenance, but a large civil engineering work is necessary in consideration of residents living in the watershed to discharge accumulated earth and sand that flow in a dam reservoir. In Japan, there are 2,500 locations for possible development of hydraulic power generation with a total generation capacity of 8,900,000 kW that is equivalent to the generation of nine nuclear power plants. However, most hydraulic generation plants in operation has a generation capacity of several tens of 10,000 kW on average, but newly hydraulic generation plants will have a capacity of 3,500 kW on average. That is, constructing a new plant will results in a high generation cost. In addition, it takes much time to conduct research on environmental assessment and get consensus from local residents. In view of the slow decision of the central government, hydraulic power generation cannot be a short-term solution for the energy problem.   

Thursday, November 3, 2011

No. 13: Race to develop a new system for wave activated power generation (November 4, 2011)

Three companies involved in the development of a wave activated power generation system are intensifying their efforts to introduce a new system. They plan to finish the basic design in two years and start a substantiative experiment on the sea in 2013 with a view to achieving a generation unit cost of 40 yen per kW by 2015. Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding will improved the system developed by Ocean Power Technologies of the U.S. to make it suitable to the sea around Japan. The new model will be 8.5 m wide and 30 m long with a capacity of 80 kW.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Bridge andSteel Structures Engineering will develop a system that uses waves coming to breakwaters to run a turbine with the help of changes of water surface and pressure in alliance with Toa Corporation. The equipment for the system is 20 m wide, and it projects about 20 m from the breakwater. Hitachi Zosen and a joint venture company in Kobe will develop a gyro system that generates the power when rotating circulate plates comes back to the original position by virtue of waves. They plan to build two units of generation equipment, each of which has a capacity of 100 kW. Japan started the development of a wave activated power generation system since 1975, but is still unsuccessful in translating it into practical applications because of the high generation unit cost. Each of the three groups addresses the development as a project led by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and plans to realize a generation unit cost of 20 yen per kW by 2020.

Friday, October 28, 2011

No. 12: Japan’s first substantiative experiment of ocean thermal energy conversion (October 29, 2011)

Kobe Steel and Saga University will start Japan’s first substantiative experiment of ocean thermal energy conversion that generates electricity using the temperature difference of seawater. They plan to develop the next-generation technology that generates electricity at about 20 yen per kW on a 10,000 kW scale. They will build demonstration equipment and conduct the experiment for one year starting in 2013.

The ocean thermal energy conversion generates low-test ammonia vapor by dint of warm seawater near the ocean surface and runs a turbine for power generation. Surplus vapor is cooled down by cool seawater in the deeper layer for recycling. Saga University will promote the efficiency of the heat exchanger using titan developed by Kobe Steel to reduce the cost of the equipment. Using the new heat exchanger, the research team will build substantiative equipment with a capacity of about 10 kW and conduct the substantiative experiment for one year to verity the generation cost. The experiment site will be an island in Okinawa Prefecture. Starting this year, it is a five year project led by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization.    

Monday, October 24, 2011

No. 11: Increase the generation amount of biogas by mixing food scraps and sewage sludge (October 24, 2011)

A sewage treatment plant in Osaka will start the experiment to increase the amount of biogas by treating sewage sludge and food scraps together coming November for an investment of about 28 million yen. This plant currently generates electricity using biogas produced by sewage sludge for operation, and plants to add food scraps to the sewage sludge for increased efficiency of biogas generation and decreased amount of food scraps. Osaka plans to put the technology into practical application by 2020. The method to utilize food scraps for biogas generation can be found in small local cities, but Osaka may be the first major city to work seriously on this method in Japan.  

The plant produces about 8,000 cubic meters biogas daily from 400 tons of sewage sludge. Because organic substances in food scraps are not resolved as much as in sewage sludge, Osaka presumes that 120-130 cubic meters biogas can be generated from 1 ton of food scraps. Hence, it thinks that the generation efficiency will increase by treating them together. In the experiment, a research team will collect food scraps from hotels and department stores, liquefied them, and put them into the digester chamber. The will verify the optimal method for the operation because it is necessary to eliminate chopsticks and other products unsuitable for the process beforehand. Osaka treats about 1,200,000 tons of trash annually, about 30% of which are food scraps. Osaka is promoting the concept “Building a recycling-oriented community of resources and energy,” and the investment on the experiment is part of this approach.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

No. 10: A total of 93 items are subject to deregulation in the draft to promote renewable energy (October 20, 2011)

The energy and environment subcommittee of the Japanese government issued a draft for the reform of regulations and systems. The draft covers 93 items to promote renewable energy. They include mitigation of the existing regulations on geothermal and wind generation inside national parks and abandoned farmlands. Regulations on the location of hydraulic power generation will be mitigated, and safety regulations stipulated by the Electric Enterprise Law will be modified to facilitate the introduction of small-scale generation and new technology. Actually, the draft consists of three themes: (1) Reform of the power system, (2) Faster introduction of renewable energy, and (3) Promotion of energy saving.

To be specific, regulations on national parks and abandoned farmlands will be modified greatly to simplify the procedures of the feasibility research and excavation necessary for the construction of a power plant, and special measures law of the Agricultural Land Act and the Forest Law will be formulated. To foster small-scale hydraulic power generation, the government will modify the Electric Enterprise Law and the River Law besides mitigating the regulations on water right. At the same time, the subcommittee will publish guidelines to clarify the procedures for negotiations and adjustments with people and organizations involved in the fishery industry to introduce ocean wind generation that can rarely be found in Japan at present. The Japanese government plans to enforce the deregulation within the year to minimize the increase of electricity cost and prevent power shortage in the peak time through promoting power using renewable energy.   

Monday, October 17, 2011

No. 9: Substantiative experiments of an air-conditioning system using earth thermal (October 17, 2011)

Japan Ground Water Development in Yamagata Prefecture will start substantiative experiments of an air-conditioning system that uses earth thermal inside its headquarters coming November. They are designed to establish a model for effective operation of the system and study the influence of the system over the underground environment. This is a three year project to be conducted in alliance with the graduate school of Kyushu University and NationalInstitute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST). The investment for the initial year is 100 million yen.

The company introduced an air-conditioning system that combined ground water and a heat pump as the energy source in 1983. The system pumps up ground water and returns the water to the ground through thermal exchange. In the experiments, the research team will establish an air-conditioning system combined with the latest heat pump and study the effective operation of the system to increase the presence in the market. An 840-square-meter floor will be used for the experiments, and operation data will be collected to start the operation toward late November. The research team is scheduled to draw a nationwide promotional map for the effective utilization of the earth thermal air-conditioning system.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

No. 8: An increasing number of companies get involved in geothermal generation (October 6, 2011)

No projects were planned for geothermal generation since the last project ended in 1999. It is estimated that Japan has a potential capacity of more than 20 million kW in geothermal generation that is equivalent to the total capacity of 20 nuclear power plants, but only 0.5 million kW is being utilized because of the strict regulations governing national parks and the difficulty to sell generated electricity. However, the situation is changing very rapidly. The buyback system of all electricity generated by renewable energy will be enacted next July.

Taking the opportunities of the deregulation, an increasing number of companies plan to start the geothermal generation business. Marubeni will build geothermal plants in the northern part of Japan with a view to selling all generated electricity. JFE Engineering, IdemitsuKosan, and INPEX are planning to enter into the business. Mitsubishi Materials has already started to excavate wells for geothermal generation in alliance with Tohoku Electric Power.

Unlike photovoltaic generation and wind generation, geothermal generation is not affected by weather conditions. In addition, the cost of geothermal generation is 20 yen per kW, while that of photovoltaic generation is as much as 40 yen per kW. At the same time, the Ministry of Environment is scheduled to deregulate the development of geothermal generation on the condition that a special construction method is used. Japan has the world’s third largest resources of geothermal generation following Indonesia and the U.S. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry supports the spread of geothermal generation. It has asked the Diet to appropriate more than 10 billion yen for the research on geological structure and the amount of geothermal energy resources.    

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No. 7: Wind generation grows popular in the northernmost part of the Honshu Island (October 5, 2011)

Aomori Prefecture is the northernmost prefecture in the Honshu Island. This prefecture actively takes the initiative in introducing measures to promote renewable energy including wind generation. It has 200 windmills that have a combined generation capacity of about 300,000 kW. The governor of Aomori Prefecture shows the determination to be the leading prefecture in introducing renewable energy.

Leading wind generation companies, such as EurusEnergy and Eco Power, set up bases in this prefecture. Japan Wind Development is also active in this region, and it graded up its base to the headquarters in the Tohoku region. Moves to utilize sunlight are growing in the area facing the Pacific Ocean because it is not snowy. Tohoku Electric Power is constructing a large-scale photovoltaic generation plant inside its premises. A small local organization is operating wind generation and small hydraulic power generation using springwater in the Seikan tunnel. The prefecture is actively developing various kinds of generation using renewable energy. They include generation using water of storage reservoir for agriculture, ocean current power generation, earth thermal generation, and generation using woody biomass.

The efforts to develop technology for smart utilization of power and heat are also in progress. The wind generation plant run by Japan Wind Development has a large storage battery inside the premises to stabilize the output. The company plans to transmit electricity to a building before Tokyo Station about 600 kg away from Aomori Prefecture. Leading companies including Toyota Motor and Hitachi are conducting substantiative experiments of smart grids. Hirosaki University established North Japan Research Institutefor Sustainable Energy, and it is addressing generation using drifting snow.

Besides developing renewable energy, the prefecture is also working on the development of safety technology of nuclear power generation. In fact, International Fusion Energy Research Center affiliated with Japan Atomic Energy Agency has a base in this prefecture.   

No. 6: A new yeast for higher efficiency and lower cost biofuel made of a nonfood plant (October 4, 2011)

Toyota Motor announced that it would put biofuel made of a nonfood plant into practical application toward 2020. The biofuel the company has been developing is cellulosic ethanol made of Pennisetum purpureum Schumach that is a nonfood plant growing in the tropical zone. The yeast that it developed using the recombinant DNA technology made it possible to apply 87% of the raw sugar to ethanol, 3% higher than the rate achieved by the current technology. It wishes to make cellulosic ethanol as low as gasoline by simplifying the production process of biofuel. It plans licensing and alliance with other companies because a huge investment of several ten billion yen will be required to build a plant for mass production.

Because biofuel made of food plants is affected by the price fluctuations of food plants like sugarcane and corn, Toyota plans to grow Pennisetum purpureum Schumach by itself and develop an integrated technology necessary for all the stages from production of raw materials to purification. Leaves Pennisetum purpureum Schumach will be used for feed for cows and stems for the raw material of biofuel and industrial materials. It is also planning to build a hybrid vehicle that uses biofuel.    

Thursday, September 29, 2011

No. 5: An experiment facility for space photovoltaic generation (September 29, 2011)

Kyoto University built a facility toconduct substantiative experiments of space photovoltaic generation that transmits energy from a solar panel in space to the earth with an investment of about one billion yen. This is the world’s largest experiment facility to substantiate the technology of wireless transmission of energy from space to the earth. The technology can be applied to the development of the technology to charge an electric vehicle without an electrical outlet. Space photovoltaic generation uses a solar panel in space launched by a rocket. Generated electricity is converted to microwaves and transmitted to the earth, and subsequently the microwaves are converted to electricity on the earth.

The university will transmit microwaves of the same intensity as the anticipated microwaves from space and let an antenna, which is set several meters away from the facility, receive them, and the microwaves are converted to electricity. It plans to launch an experimental satellite equipped with a solar panel 10 meters in diameter in five to ten years. The expected generation capacity is 10 kW. It is estimated that a solar panel 2-3 km in diameter is required to make space photovoltaic generation commercially viable. Space photovoltaic generation of this size will have a generation capacity of one million kW that is equivalent to the generation capacity of one nuclear power generation.

Friday, September 16, 2011

No. 4: Growing moves to develop bioethanol using nonfood raw materials (September 16, 2011)

There are growing moves to start substantiative experiments of bioethanol using nonfood raw materials. The Japanese government set a goal to produce 500,000 kiloliters biofuel of oil equivalent annually in 2017, but Japan has the capacity to produce only 200,000 kiloliters biofuel at present. The major raw materials currently the Japanese government plans for biofuel are corns and sugarcanes, but the development of inexpensive raw materials are vital because grain market prices are going high these days.

The Research Association of Innovative BioethanolTechnology, founded by six companies including JX Nippon Oil & Energy, Toyota, and Toray, will build experiment plants next spring to produce fuel by fermenting sugar content extracted from such raw materials as gramineous plant Erianthus with an investment of about one billion yen. Oji Paper and NipponSteel Engineering will build experiment equipment inside one of Oji’s plants with an investment of one billion yen. They use lumbers and wood residues unusable as raw materials of pulp. It is an urgent task to diversify the raw materials for biofuel in Japan.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No. 3: Japanese wind generation technology goes to Europe (September 14, 2011)

Wind generation is expected to increase the share from 5% in 2010 to 15% in 2020 in the European power generation market. Japanese companies are planning to participate in the fierce competition with their high-value added products. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is preparing for the plan of the British government to build more than 7,000 ocean windmills by 2020. The company already got the prospects for the practical application of a hydraulically-driven generator with an output of 10,000 kW that is about two times higher output of the existing gear type ocean windmill. Because ocean generation plants need maintenance on the ship, it plans to develop a special ship for the installation and maintenance of ocean windmills using the technology it has accumulated for shipbuilding.    

Nabtesco, one of Japan’s leading companies of control devices, will ship the core device of wind generation to a European wind generation equipment maker early 2012. It is the equipment to rotate the direction of the blade, and Nabtesco’s product is about 30% lighter than those from competitors. NTN, one of Japan’s leading bearing makers, increase the production capacity of bearings larger than 60 cm in diameter six times for wind generation equipment in its subsidiary in France. Marubeni will enter the business in England in alliance with Dong Energy of Denmark. The European wind generation market will grow rapidly. In particular, the British government plans to generate 32 million kW, which is about one third of total power consumption in England, by ocean generation in 2020.

Monday, September 12, 2011

No. 2: Growing trend to use renewable energy for agriculture (September 13, 2011)

The approach to use renewable energy for agriculture is growing widespread. Fuji Electric developed a PCV greenhouse equipped with solar cells in collaboration with Zen-Noh, and plans to sell this new product through Zen-Noh’s distribution channels starting in 2012. The newly-developed PCV greenhouse has a roof with film solar cells developed by Fuji Electric on it. The solar cell is about 1 mm thick. Because it is thin and light, it can be put on the frame of a PCV greenhouse. Zen-Noh will study the optimal installation system of the solar cells to maintain high generation efficiency. A PCV greenhouse of about 2,000-square-meters is expected to have a generation capacity of 6-8 kW. Surplus electricity will be sold to electric power companies. The substantiative experiment has started using PCV greenhouses for tomato cultivation. The company plans to sell the solar cells with a farming support system, and expects to grow the annual sales to 10 billion yen in three years.

Sinfonia Technologies developed a vegetable plant system combined with a generation system that uses renewable energy to promote the self-sufficiency of electricity in agriculture. The system comes with a storage battery and equipment to generate electricity using sunlight and wind. When sunlight is not enough for photosynthesis, the system lights LEDs to supplement sunlight using electricity from the storage battery. The vegetable plant system offers high harvest efficiency. It can produce 2.5 times more tomatoes than the conventional cultivation method. The system is scheduled to be installed in a 1,000-square-meter vegetation plant to be built by Zen-Noh.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No. 1: Household fuel cell operative in power outage (September 12, 2011)

A household fuel cell generates electricity and heat using city gas and LPG as fuel. When power outage occurs, it automatically stops to prevent the reverse power flow that the electricity of the fuel cell flows into the electricity networks of electric power companies. JX Nippon Oil &Energy will launch a fuel cell integrated with a storage cell using lithium-ion cells. The company built a storage battery with a capacity of 6 kW that uses 90 lithium-ion cells designed for PCs built in China. In the experimental operation for possible power outage, it confirmed that the storage battery successfully changed the mode to receive stored electricity for continuous generation. It can provide power to lighting and refrigerators without interruption as long as the power consumption is within its capacity.

The storage battery will be about one million yen. Because it will be sold with the fuel cell, the set price will be around 2,600,000 yen with the help of the expected subsidy. The company plans to sell 4,000 fuel cells in 2012, half of which is scheduled to be integrated with a storage battery. The annual sales of ENE-FARM the company put on the market in 2009 were about 5,000 units both in 2009 and 2010. However, sales jumped to 8,133 units by early July because of the Fukushima disaster. Demand for integrated type is estimated to grow, but the additional cost of 1 million yen is not a small burden to consumers. The company needs to realize low cost and bigger sales simultaneously.