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.