Sunday, November 18, 2012

No. 69: A new wave power generation system to be launched in 2016 (November 19, 2012)

Mitsubishi Heavy is developing a new wave power generation system that sets a structure on the sea side of a breakwater. The structure is like a box, and air inside the structure is pushed out when a wave comes into the structure to run a turbine of the generator. Because the structure can bring in waves coming from diagonally, the system has two times higher generation efficiency than the existing system. As a result, the company opened up the road to reduce the generation cost to 40 yen per kW. Although the total power output depends on how many units are built on a breakwater, it is possible to get a generation capacity of 1 mega watt to supply electricity to 200-300 households.

Bridgeand Steel Structure Engineering, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy, will install a demonstration system in 2014 to start the substantiative experiment using a breakwater in the Tohoku district. The construction cost is about 400 million yen per unit. The system is basically designed for isolated islands where energy cost is rather high. The Japanese government reckons that the introduction of renewable energy in 2012 will increase 12% over the previous year to about 2,500,000 kW on an output basis thanks to the system introduced in July this year to purchase electricity generated by renewable energy at favorable fixed prices for 10-20 years. 

Generation cost, feature, and problem of major renewable energy types
Generation cost per kW/h
Aiming for less than 40 yen
33.4-38.3 yen (Residence)
9.9-17.3 yen
(On land)
9.2-11.6 yen
Possible to generate throughout the year
Easy to install and operate
Possible to generate regardless of time
Possible to generate throughout the year if hot water is available
Cost and waterproofing technology
Impossible to generate at night
Generates low-frequency sound
Available places are mostly inside a national park

The concept of Mitsubishi Heavy’s wave power generation system

The image of Mitsubishi Heavy’s wave power generation system

Saturday, November 17, 2012

No. 68: Constructing mega solar plants on the water surface of lakes and ponds (November 17, 2012)

West Holdings, one of Japan’s leading solar panel producers, will construct mega solar plants on the water surface of lakes and ponds in alliance with LSIS that is a Korean company specializing in equipment related to power generation. The company will import LSIS’s equipment and float waterproof generation facilities on water surface. It plans to construct 10 mega solar plants with a total generation capacity of 20,000 kW in the initial year. The competition to purchase lands suitable for power generation by renewable energy has been intensifying with the introduction of the system to purchase power generated by renewable energy in July this year, and West Holdings plans to focus on water surface left unutilized.

In the initial stage, the company will construct generation facilities with a generation capacity of 1,000-2,000 kW in the regulation pond of an industrial complex in the Tokyo metropolitan area and in the pond in a park with a water surface area of 118,000 square meters in Osaka. They are scheduled to go into operation next year. The advantage of constructing a mega solar on the water surface is that the temperature of the panels installed on the water surface hardly increases, making it possible to increase output. At the same time, photovoltaic panels shut sunlight to avoid the plague of blue-green algae.  

A mega solar plant constructed in an ex-salt field in Shikoku 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

No. 67: Japanese biogas generation technology goes to Southeast Asia (November 16, 2012)

Business trend:
Kubota will start the biogas generation business in Southeast Asia in alliance with palm oil producers in Malaysia and Indonesia. The company will build plants to generate electricity using methane gas recovered from the effluent and joint companies will sell electricity. Because Malaysia and Indonesia introduced an electricity purchase system, Kubota tries to get orders with the emphasis on its technological advantage. Kubota’s system is called the membrane methane fermentation system. Kubota will sell this system with a generator.

With the help of its original membrane technology, the system can recover methane gas effectively to increase the output by 20%. It is estimated that an average palm oil plant can get a revenue about 130 million yen per year by selling electricity. Kubota already secured an order of 300 million yen for a biogas generation plant from Malaysia for the first time. Malaysia and Indonesia combined have more than 1,000 palm oil producers.  

Kubota’s membrane methane fermentation system

Friday, November 9, 2012

No. 66: Present status of ocean current power generation (November 10, 2012)

In European Marine Energy Center located offshore of Orkney Islands of Scotland, Kawasaki Heavy plans to conduct substantiative experiments of ocean current power generation in 2014. Kawasaki will install equipment on the seabed 50 meters below the surface of the sea. Propellers 18 meters in diameter each rotate by dint of ocean current to generate electricity, and the direction of propellers will be automatically controlled responding to come and go of the tide. Special treatment will be given to the propellers to avoid malfunction due to adhesion of marine organisms. The company is confident that the technology it has accumulated in posture control and corrosion protection will be of great help to the development of ocean current power generation that offers constant generation.

Japan has the world sixth largest country in terms of the area of territorial waters and excusive economic zone (EEZ). Because it has lots of potential for utilizing ocean energy, the Ministry of the Environment plans to increase the generation capacity of ocean energy to 1,500,000 kW in 2030. Some estimate that Japan’s total wave energy amount to 36 million kW that is equivalent to the generation capacity of more than 30 nuclear power plants. The critical point is how to collect generated electricity.

A research team made up of researchers from the University of Tokyo, IHI, Toshiba, and Mitsui Global Strategic Studies Institute is developing an underwater floating ocean current generator that generates electricity by dint of the black current. Blades 40 meters in diameter each of a generator floating in 50 meters below the surface of the sea level rotate and generate facing the black current. Ken Takagi of the University of Tokyo says “An ocean current always flows to the same direction, allowing for stable generation.”

Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding is developing a wave power generator to make the best use of waves that come to and go from Japan of a wide range of frequencies. It will generate electricity by dint of up-and-down motions of small buoys floating on the surface of the sea. The company plans to commercialize the generator toward 2016.  

An image of the tidal wave generator being 
developed by Kawasaki Heavy 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

No. 65: Present status of offshore wind generation (October 9, 2012)

Experiments of offshore wind generation are under way in several locations. Offshore wind turbines being constructed under the initiative of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) offshore of Chiba Prefecture will start operation in October. Local governments are developing projects to foster offshore wind generation in alliance with universities and companies. Kyushu University is operating its self-developed “wind lens turbine” that has a cover around the blades. The original turbine installed on a hexagon base collects wind and makes the wind velocity 1.5 times stronger.

Unlike in Europe, the floating wind farm anchored in the seabed with chain is dominant in Japan because water depth is mostly over 50 m off Japan. The Ministry of Environment plans to increase the output by offshore wind generation 270 times from the current 30,000 kW to 8,030,000 kW that is equivalent to the output of eight nuclear power plants by 2030. Developing the technology of the floating wind farm is critical to achieve this ambitious target.

The crucial issue of offshore wind generation is high construction cost because it costs more than three times than a wind generation plant on land. Some offshore wind generation projects use concrete instead of steel for part of the floating body to reduce construction cost. Kyushu University is planning to connect three triangular floating bodies instead of using one hexagon body to reduce construction cost, and install solar batteries to achieve a total output of 3,000 kW.

The purchase price of power by wind generation is fixed at 23.1 yen whether or not it is generated offshore or on land.    

 The floating offshore wind generation system 
developed by Kyushu University

Friday, September 21, 2012

No. 64: Small hydraulic generation market grows more active (September 22, 2012)

Business trend:
The small hydraulic generation is defined as the hydraulic generation with a capacity of less than 1,000 kW. It is suitable for generation using a brook or an agricultural irrigation channel. It is a dispersed power system with a relatively stable output. Seabell International is actively expanding business in alliance with Osaka Gas. The company plans to increase sales quantity six times by offering a lease system without front-end payment. Farmers collaborate with Energy Bank Japan, a subsidiary of Osaka Gas, to conclude a contract with a leasing company. They pay the lease fee with revenue from electric power selling, and split the balance.

Nippon Koei has participated in the small hydraulic generation market with its medium-sized generators that have a capacity of 400 kW, though it specializes in large-sized generators with a capacity between 2,000 and 5,000 kW. With the introduction of the system to purchase power generated by renewable energy, power generators can sell power to electric power companies for 20 years. The selling price of power generated by hydraulic generation with a capacity less than 200 kW is set at 35.7 yen per kW, that with a capacity between 200 and 1,000 kW is set at 30.45 yen per kW, and that with a capacity between 1,000 and 30,000 kW is set at 25.2 yen per kW.  

Small Hydro Stream by Seabell

Saturday, September 15, 2012

No. 63: Wind power generation business grows brisk (September 15, 2012)

Business trend:

Windmills along the seacoast
Summit Wind Power plans to build another six wind generation facilities in Kashima of Ibaraki Prefecture. The six facilities will start operation with a combined capacity of 18,000 kW in 2016. The investment will be 4-5 billion yen. With the new facilities, the company will increase its generation capacity 50% to 54,000 kW, equivalent to power consumption of about 30,000 households. Summit Wind Power is a group company of Summit Energy wholly owned by Sumitomo Corp.

Summit Wind Power is now operating 10 windmills, each of which has a generation capacity of 2,000 kW, in the Kashima coast industrial area. The company will have a meeting with residents to explain its plan and show a picture of the plan. With the introduction of the special law that asks electric power companies to purchase renewable energy, wind power generation business is growing active. Summit Wind Power will sell generated power to Tokyo Electric Power Company.  

 Kashima coastal industrial area in Ibaraki Prefecture

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

No. 62: Six companies ally to participate in the off-shore wind generation business (September 5, 2012)

Business trend:
Six companies will form an alliance and enter the off-shore wind generation business with a total investment of 120 billion yen. They are Hitachi Zosen, Toshiba, JFE Steel, Sumitomo Electric, Toa Corp., and Toyo Construction. Japan Weather Association will joint the alliance for the survey on air flow rate. They will invest 120 billion yen over a decade to construct an off-shore wind generation plant with a capacity of 300,000 kW. Hitachi Zosen will build braces, Toshiba will construct windmills, and Sumitomo Electric will lay down marine cables.

In the initial stage, they will adopt the embedded off-shore generation system, and later advance to the floating off-shore generation system. With the support from the government, they will build a pilot plant with a capacity of 7,000 kW in several locations to study feasibility and deterioration by salt damage in 2015 for the selection of the construction area. The full-scale operation of the new plant is scheduled for 2020. A wind generator has a total of 20,000 parts as an automobile, promoting wind generation will create employment. The generation cost of an embedded off-shore wind generation is estimated at between 9.4 yen and 23.1 yen, land wind generation between 9.9 yen and 17.3 yen, and large-scale photovoltaic generation between 30.1 yen and 45.8 yen in Japan. 

An alliance of six companies starts to 
spread wind generation in Japan. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

No. 61: Wind generator grows more powerful (July 19, 2012)

The Japan Steel Works will develop a large-scale wind generator that is 30% more powerful than the existing wind generator. Although the act to purchase renewable energy started in July, Japan does not have so many areas suitable for wind generation. Accordingly, demand for large-scale powerful wind generators is expected to grow, the company predicted. The new mode named J100 will have an output of 2,700 kW and begin operations in 2013.

The conventional wind generator turns a turbine at high speed by increasing the revolution of blades using an overdrive, but gears and bearings of an overdrive are liable to let it break down. The company plans to adopt a structure that does not need an overdrive for the new model to make it free from breakdown. The company recorded sales of nearly 2 billion yen from wind generators in fiscal ended May 2012 and wishes to increase them to 19 billion yen in fiscal ending March 2015.  

 Wind generators by the Japan Steel Works 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

No. 60: Photovoltaic panels on the rooftop of a platform building of a railway station (July 15, 2012)

Business trend:
Tokyo Metro’s subway network has a total of 179 stations, some of which are aboveground stations. One of these stations has been running a photovoltaic generation system as the photo below shows. The system has a total of 108 photovoltaic panels, covering an area of about 127 square meters.

In a sunny day, it can generate 20 kW that is enough to run an escalator and illuminate the lights inside the station. In addition, it can reduce 10 tons of carbon dioxide annually. Tokyo Metro is actively installing photovoltaic panels in its stations to mitigate the image that a railway consumes lots of electricity and contribute to the nationwide efforts to save energy. 

Photovoltaic panels on a plantform building of a railway station in Tokyo

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

No. 59: A British wind generator maker is coming to Japan (June 20, 2012)

Business trend
Evans Wind Turbines, a British small-sized wind generator maker, will develop the market in Japan in alliance with Zephyr. The company has 30% share in the small-sized wind generator market in Great Britain. Zephyr will collaborate with Evans and build Evans’ R9000 that has an output of 5 kW as Evans’ original equipment manufacturer.

The price is not decided yet, but will supposedly be around several million yen. The R9000 can be featured by few troubles because of the simple structure to spin windmills. Zephyr will sell Evans’ product not only in Japan but also in the Asian region. It plans to sell 200-300 R9000s in the next three years.

Wind generation has several advantages over photovoltaic generation despite the higher initial investment: 1,500,000 yen vs. 520,000 yen. The former can generate as long as wind exists, whereas the latter can generate only during daytime hours. The former has annual generation per kW of 1,460 kW/h, whereas the latter has annual generation per kW of 1,000 kW/h. What is more, the purchase price of wind generation is 57.75 yen per kW, whereas that of photovoltaic generation is 42 yen per kW.

In Japan, the small-size wind generator is defined as a generator with an output of less than 20 kW. At present, 75% of small-sized wind generators installed in Japan have an output of less than 1 kW because nearly all installed small-sized generators are for generation only for internal use. As of the end of 2010, 9,500 small-sized wind generators were at work, only 2.5% of which were connected to the power network of an electric power company. 

R9000 wind generator from Evans Wind Turbines of Great Britain 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

No. 58: Japanese photovoltaic generation technology goes to Canada (June 16, 2012)

Business trend
Three Japanese companies, Osaka Gas, Mitsubishi Corp., and Sharp, will build a total of nine mega solar power plants in the eastern part of Ontario of Canada with an investment of 35 billion yen, and jointly operate them to accumulate know-how on the operation and management of a mega solar power plant. The nine plants will have a total generation capacity of 100,000 kW. The three companies will jointly establish an independent power producer in Canada with a capital of about 10 billion yen, of which Osaka Gas and Mitsubishi Corp. pay 45% each and Sharp pays the remaining 10%, shortly in Canada. They are scheduled to build three plants in 2012, and the remaining six plants by the end of 2013.

They have already concluded a contract with Ontario Power Authority to sell generated electricity for 0.44 Canadian dollars (about 35 yen) for 20 years. At the strong request of the Ontario authorities, the project will employ Canadian solar panels. The annual output is scheduled to be more than 100 million kW that is enough for the annual power consumption of more than 10,000 households. The purchase price of 35 yen is rather high, and it is currently second highest following the price of 42 yen set by the Japanese government. Osaka Gas is actively investing in the renewable energy business to make it as a new mainstay. The wind power generation plant it built in Australia in alliance with Marubeni has been operating since June 2011. 

 The mega solar business developed by Sharp in Italy

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

No. 57: NTT participates in the photovoltaic generation business (June 13, 2012)

Business trend
NTT will participate in the photovoltaic generation business through one of its subsidiaries, NTT Facilities, utilizing its idled land. It plans to build about 20 mega solar power plants by the end of 2014. The total generation capacity will be 60,000 kW, making NTT the company with the biggest generation capacity in Japan. Total investment will be about 15 billion yen. The 60,000 generation capacity can supply electricity to about 20,000 households.

The law to purchase electricity generated by renewable energy will be put into effect coming July. The Japanese government proposed a plan to buy electricity of photovoltaic generation for 42 yen per kW for 20 years. Because NTT can expect profits from electric power selling to be 2 billion yen annually, it can recoup its investment in 6-7 years. Starting this summer, NTT will operate 6 mega solar power plants in succession until the end of next January with a total generation capacity of 11,000 kW.  

One of Japan's largest distribution and complex facilities designed and developed by NTT Facilities in Kanagawa Prefecture 

Monday, May 14, 2012

No. 56: Building a bridgehead in Australia (May 14, 2012)

Business trend
Japan’s largest wind generation company built a bridgehead in Australia to enter the Australian wind generation market. Eurus Energy agreed with AGL, Australia’s leading integrated renewable energy company, that it would acquire the wind generation plant AGL constructed in the southern part of Australia for about 15 billion yen. The plant that was completed in March this year has 25 wind generators with a total output of 52,500 kW. The generated power will be sold to AGL’s subsidiary for 24 years to supply electricity to 27,000 households. Eurus Energy was founded jointly by Tokyo Electric Power Company and Toyota Tsusho.

Eurus Energy is doing generation business in 7 countries with a total output of 2,100,000 kW, of which 820,000 kW is in Europe, 630,000 kW is in the U.S., and 530,000 kW is in Japan. The company is actively trying to increase business responding to the special measures that ask electric power companies to purchase renewable energy scheduled for enactment coming July. It has been exploring the possibility to expand business in the markets other than those in the northern hemisphere to diversify the risk of concentrating on specific regions. 

Generating windmills operated by Eurus Energy in Japan

Saturday, May 12, 2012

No. 55: Taking the advantage of the growing popularity of geothermal generation (May 13, 2012)

Business trend
Geothermal generation is growing popular in the U.S. and countries blessed with sunlight alike. Fuji Electric, world’s leader of the geothermal generation equipment market with 4% share, will participate in a geothermal generation project in the U.S. Energy Source of the U.S. will construct the Hudson Ranch Geothermal Power Plant in California for 30 billion yen, and Fuji Electric will take a stake in this company for 800 million yen. The power plant has an output of 49,000 kW to supply power to 50,000 households in Arizona. The construction will start in 2013 and the operation will start in 2015. Fuji Electric plans to get an order for the steam turbines and generators of this power plant.

In the U.S., the total output from geothermal generation inside the U.S. is expected to increase 70% over the level in 2010 to 5.4 million kW in 2015. The development of geothermal generation has also been growing active in Indonesia and Philippines. Fuji Electric wishes to increase its share in the world market to 50% by accumulating development results worldwide. 

 Hudson Ranch Geothermal Power Plant 

Friday, May 11, 2012

No. 54: Introducing photovoltaic generation to elementary and junior high schools (May 11, 2012)

Business trend
The Japanese government decided to introduce photovoltaic generation to elementary and junior high schools and use them as the base to supply electricity to the surrounding area. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure,Transport and Tourism and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Scienceand Technology will construct facilities for photovoltaic generation in selected schools in the disaster-stricken areas and expand the plan throughout the country. In parallel with the introduction, the schools will be renovated to be energy-saving and quakeproof utilizable as the evacuation area in a time of disaster. In the March 11 disaster in 2011, more than 6,000 schools were affected, of which about 200 schools reportedly need renovation.

Solar panels will be installed on the rooftop of buildings and gymnasiums of selected schools. The renovation cost is estimated at 100 million yen per school. Unlike a standard household, a school consumes electricity mostly for lighting. In addition, it can store electricity on Saturdays, Sundays, and vacations in summer and winter. It is estimated that a school can satisfy the power demand of about 30 households. Several schools have installed solar panels on an experimental basis, but no schools have ever tried to provide the integrated service that includes power storage and supply besides power generation. The two ministries hope that their plan will support the technological innovation of private companies. A school is not allowed to supply power to outside premises at present, but the two ministries are discussing deregulating the existing rule as a special case. 

 Photovoltaic generation in a school

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

No. 53: A convenience store chain starts to sell surplus power outside (May 9, 2012)

Business trend
Beginning on July 1, 2012, it will be possible to sell renewable energy to an electric power company at a fixed price. Responding to this special measures law, many companies have already participated in the power generation business, and we have another entrant. Lawson, Japan’s second largest convenience store chain, decided to start the generation business within the year. Lawson has about 10,530 outlets nationwide, and it will install a photovoltaic generation system in these outlets to generate electricity for lighting and air-conditioning. Surplus power will be sold to the local electric power company. Lawson is the first major retailer that sells electricity by private power generation to an outside company.

Seven-Eleven, Japan’s largest convenience store chain, has already installed a photovoltaic generation system in 1,400 outlets for in-house power consumption. Family-Mart, Japan’s third largest convenience store chain, has already installed a photovoltaic system in some of its outlets. Kyocera has already decided to build Japan’s largest photovoltaic generation facilities in alliance with IHI and Mizuho Corporate Bank, and Softbank is planning to build a large-scale mega solar plant. The move to start in-house power generation and sell surplus power outside is expected to grow widespread quite rapidly.  

A photovoltaic generation system on the rooftop of a convenience store 

Monday, May 7, 2012

No. 52: Field test of a photovoltaic generation system in India (May 8, 2012)

Business trend
India has been achieving dramatic economic growth these days, and power demand in India will supposedly increase three times in 2030 over the level in 2005. The Indian government is promoting the national policy to introduce photovoltaic generation of 20 gigwatts by 2022. Responding to this national policy, New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NIDO) decided to conduct a field test of a large-scale photovoltaic generation system in the Neemrana Industrial Park in the western part of India. The industrial park is the strategic point in the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC). The memorandum on the field test was exchanged between NIDO and the development corporation of the DMIC.

NEDO will install a photovoltaic generation system with an output of 6 megawatts and construct a microgrid system combined with diesel electric power generation to realize constant power supply even in drought. The project cost is 4,100 million yen, of which about 2,800 million yen is borne by NIDO, and power generation is scheduled to start by the end of next year. Currently, 14 Japanese companies are operating in the Neemrana Industrial Park, but they need a privately owned electrical power facilities because of the unstable power supply. A total of 34 Japanese companies already decided to construct a based in the industrial park. 

The Neemrana Industrial Park in which 14 Japanese companies are currently operating.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

No. 51: Developing other kinds of renewable energy generation systems (2/2) (May 7, 2012)

Energy harvesting is advancing. The technology to change radio waves from TV broadcasting, mobile phone, wireless LAN to electricity was developed by Nihon Dengyo Kosaku. This technology is called rectifying antenna, or rectenna for short. Catching radio waves in the air makes it possible to generate electricity anywhere. That is, outside equipment with built-in rectenna technology can receive radio waves for power supply. The company plans to put the technology into practical use within the year. Murata Manufacturing, Ceratec Engineering, and Sound Power are developing piezoelectric vibration generation technology that changes pressure and vibration into electricity. That is, a remote controller that incorporates piezoelectric vibration generation technology does not need a battery because it can generate electricity when one of its buttons is pushed.

Kobe Steel launched a binary cycle system that generates electricity using hot spring. The system heats the alternative for chlorofluorocarbon that flows inside the system to boiling through heat exchange. It can boil hot water of 70 degrees centigrade and create steam, and the created steam generates electricity of 70 kW. This output is enough to satisfy the power demand of a hotel. Xenesys has been conducting research on ocean thermal energy conversion for the past more than 10 years. The technology is to run a turbine with steam created by surface water. The created steam is liquefied after it is cooled down with deep ocean water. The principle is the same as binary cycle. Sea areas suitable for thermal energy conversion need to have surface water of 25 degrees centigrade and deep ocean water of 5 degrees centigrade. There are not so many suitable sea areas except off Okinawa Island in Japan, but there are lots of suitable sea areas in the world. The potential amount is estimated at 1,000 billion kW. The company plans to commercialize the technology as the power station for isolated islands. 

Rectenna to harvest terresterial digital broadcasting  

A sample of piezoelectric vibration generation

Friday, May 4, 2012

No. 50: Developing other kinds of renewable energy generation systems (1/2) (May 4, 2012)

Energy harvesting that generates electricity using such small energy sources as vibration, sound, light from fluorescent lamp, radio wave, and heat from machinery and home electronics attracts increasing attention. KELK, a company of the Komatsu subsidiary, is marketing a thermoelastic generation module that changes the heat from production equipment to electricity. It is a bismuth telluride metal. If one side of the module is heated and the other side is cooled, there will be difference in temperature between the two sides. Then, it is possible to send an electric current between the two sides by dint of the temperature difference. An output of 24 watts is available if one side is 280 degrees centigrade and the other side is 30 degrees centigrade. Although the output is small, this module allows for effective reutilization of waste heat. The company plans to strengthen the marketing efforts toward 2013.

NipponSteel Chemical developed a dye sensitization cell that generates electricity using heat from room lighting. The dye that absorbs light generates electricity when it transfers electrons to titanic oxide. It is possible to increase the conversion efficiency by changing the blending of dyes depending on the wavelength of light. The company already developed the dye sensitization cell that employs resin substrate instead of glass substrate. It can be bendable because the resin is soft, and it can be installed on a curtain or a poster. The company built on trial such products with built-in dye sensitization cell like portable battery charger for a mobile phone. The company plans to commercialize them toward 2013. 

The thermoelastic generation module from KELK, a company of the Komatsu group

The flexible dye sensitization cell developed by Nippon Steel Chemical

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

No. 49: Leasing a small-size wind generation system to plants and hospitals (May 2, 2012)

Business trend
The move to spread renewable energy generation has been gaining momentum thanks to the special measure that obliges electric power companies to purchase surplus electricity generated by renewable energy. Ricoh Leasing decided to lease small-size wind generators to plants, hospitals, and commercial facilities.

The small-size wind generator to be leased is built by Loopwing, a venture company specializing in wind generators. Loopwing’s TRONC is characterized by a structure strong against blast. It does not create wind noise, nor does it need so much space for installation. Because it catches wind in a three-dimensional manner, the windmill rotates with a wind velocity as low as 2 m/h and has more than 40% power exchange rate at a wind velocity of 8 m/h. Ricoh offers four types of TRONC ranging from 500 W to 11 kW, and plans to lease a 500 W type for monthly fee of 50,000 yen for a period of 6 years together with an electric bulletin board to show the annual power output and reduced CO2 emissions. The 5 kW type can generate 2,683 kW per year at a wind velocity of 4 m/h, supplying enough electricity for the annual consumption of a standard household.  

 Small-size wind generators built by Loopwing and leased by Ricoh Leasing

Thursday, April 26, 2012

No. 48: The action to stimulate the renewable energy business induces a trading company to build small hydraulic power plants (April 26, 2012)

Business trend
The special measures to purchase electricity generated by renewable energy will start coming July. This action prompted capital-rich companies, such as generation trading companies, to invest in the renewable energy business. Marubeni, one of Japan’s leading trading companies, will build more than 20 small-scale hydraulic power plants across the country by 2020. The small-scale hydraulic power plant generates electricity using water stream of rivers and irrigation channels. Blessed with many mountainous areas and much rainfall, Japan has abundant number of places suitable for small-scale hydraulic power generation.

The company started the operation of the three plants in the Kanto district on April 25 to make the total number six. The three plants inaugurated on 25th were built jointly by the local government and Mibugawa Power Company that is Marubeni’s wholly-owned subsidiary. The three plants have a combined generation capacity of 650 kW. The small-scale hydraulic power plant invites a wide attention as an environmentally-friendly generation system. In addition, unlike photovoltaic generation, it can generate electricity for 24 hours.

 A small-scale hydraulic power plant using agricultural water 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No. 47: The purchase price of electricity generated by photovoltaic generation is preliminarily set at 42 yen per kW (April 25, 2012)

Business trend
The Japanese government started making arrangements with authorities concerned to set the purchase price of electricity generated by photovoltaic generation at 42 yen per kW including tax. The system that asks electric power companies to purchase all electricity generated by such renewable energies as sunlight and wind at a fixed price will be enacted coming July. The system is expected to remain effective for about 20 years.

Some authorities insisted that the purchase price should be less than 40 yen, but the committee on the purchase of renewable energy gave higher priority to stimulating generation by renewable energy. The preliminary price will be submitted to the meeting of the committee. The Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry will give the final approval to the decision of the committee.

 Photovoltaic generation on the rooftop of a house

Sunday, April 22, 2012

No. 46: Fund raising for the construction of mega solar power plants grows more active (April 23, 2012)

Business trend
The move to raise funds from investors for the investment in mega solar power plant is growing more active toward coming July when the special measures to stimulate the renewable energy business are enacted. Orix, one of Japan’s leading financial service companies, will create an investment fund of 30 billion yen, and it will be followed by other companies.

As the first step, Orix will create a fund of 10 billion yen by the summer of 2013 and construct 5-10 mega solar power plants. All stocks of the fund will be sold to institutional investors when these plants go into operation, and electricity generated by photovoltaic generation will be sold to the local electric power company. The investors will receive dividends of the fund that is expected to be 5%. Orix will create another two funds of the same kind by the summer of 2015. That is, the company will construct 5-10 mega solar power plants that have a combined output of 100,000 kW enough to supply electricity to 30,000 households in three years.

Tokyo Marine Asset Management will create a fund to raise investment for the construction of 10 mega solar plants across the country in alliance with Mitsui and Co. The output is scheduled to be 1,000-2,000 kW each. Toyota Tsusho and Eurus Energy in which Tokyo Electric Power invested will invest 40-50 billion yen to construct three 100,000 kW class mega solar power plants. The financing method will be the project finance that gets finance from the bank on security of the revenue from selling electricity. The two companies plan to create a fund and collect capital from institutional investors in the future.

Generation by renewable energy accounts only for 1% of total generation in Japan, but the moves to construct the mega solar power plant is expected to grow against a backdrop of the increasing sentiment of anti-nuclear power generation.   

 The large-scale mega solar power plant outside Osaka

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

No. 45: Japanese companies grow energetic on the geothermal generation (April 18, 2012)

The feed-in tariff program to purchase all power generated by renewable energy will be enacted staring in July in Japan. Leading companies are busy with preparing to develop technology and construct system in time for the launch of the program. Toshiba developed a highly efficient geothermal generation technology that reuses waste energy used geothermal generation and increases output by 30%. This technology can decrease generation cost by 10-20% in the long run. Contrary to the conventional system that mostly uses only one turbine, Toshiba’s new system runs the first turbine using steam higher than 150 degrees centigrade collected several hundreds meters below the ground surface and the second turbine using waste heat that is below 150 degrees centigrade.

The initial cost will be higher for the additional functions, but the increased part of investment can be collected in 10-15 years because output is greater. And the generation cost will be 20-30% lower after the return of investment. Geothermal generation has the potential to generate 24 million kW that is about 10% of Japan’s total generation capacity, but the business has been slow because locations suitable for geothermal generation are mostly inside the national park and because the regulation of development is rather strict. Deregulation scheduled to start coming July stimulates technological progress of the Japanese companies concerned.

In the world geothermal generation market, Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy, and Fuji Electric are the three leading companies, and they have a combined share of 70% in the world market. The move to develop geothermal generation is growing widespread in the U.S., Asia, and Africa. Mitsubishi Heavy has been conducting feasible study of geothermal generation in East Africa including Djibouti in alliance with Marubeni since last autumn. Fuji Electric established a company in India to sell industrial products in Asia.  

A geothermal generation plant in the Tohoku district    

The largest geothermal generation plant in Japan 

Monday, March 26, 2012

No. 44: The nation’s largest geothermal plant is planned (March 26, 2012)

Business trend
Three companies of Idemitsu Kosan, INPEX, and Mitsubishi Materials drew a plan to build the nation’s largest geothermal plant in Fukushima Prefecture, responding to the conditional deregulation of excavation inside national and quasi-national parks published by the Ministry of the Environment. The new geothermal plant is scheduled to start operation toward 2020. The scheduled output is 270,000 kW that is a quarter of the output of a nuclear power plant. Made up of several plants with an output of 50,000 kW each, the new plant will supply power to 70,000 households. Total investment will be 100 billion yen. Japan Petroleum Exploration and Mitsui Oil Exploration will supposedly joint the three companies, and the project will supposedly be carried out by a total of nine companies. The companies involved will hold a presentation meeting in April. They will give the highest priority to local employment for public works like road construction and work out measures for the attraction of tourists.

Japan has the world’s third largest geothermal resources with about 24,000,000 kW following the U.S. and Indonesia, but it currently has an output of about 540,000 kW because 80% of resources are inside its national and quasi-national parks. The new plant with an output of 270,000 kW will surpass the Hachobaru Plant operated by Kyusyu Electric Power that is currently the largest geothermal plant in Japan. According to the government committee working on power generation costs, geothermal generation costs 9-11 yen per kW that is almost the same level of coal fired power generation. Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy, and Fuji Electric have a combined share of 70% in the geothermal plant market in the world. Intensifying competition will inevitably accelerate technological innovation of all companies involved.   

Currently, Japan's largest geothermal plant in Kyushu that has an output of 110,000 kW. The new geothermal plant planned by Idemitsu Kosan and others will have an output of 270,000 kW.       

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No. 43: A floating wind and tidal power plant that combines windmills and waterwheels (March 22, 2012)

Offshore wind power generation attracts wide attention because it is free from such restrictions as noise problem and scenery destruction, in addition to being very economical. Therefore, the most economical and most efficient generation seems to be the power plant that makes the best use of wind and tidal wave generation systems. Mitsui Ocean Development and Engineering (MODEC) developed a floating generation system made up of wind generation and tidal power generation. The system can increase generation efficiency and utilized capacity, while halving the generation cost by combining the optimal revolutions and torques of windmills and waterwheels. The output of the system is 1 MW.

The system set up windmills on the sea and waterwheels under the sea to generate power simultaneously by virtue of wind and tidal power. It employs vertical axis windmills instead of horizontal axis windmills for wind generation because the former has four times higher output per area than the latter and because the former has higher stability than the latter thanks to its low gravity point. The windmills are supported by a simple floating structure and anchor chains, and neither civil work nor special ship is required.

It employs the lift type wings of high-revolution low-torque for the windmill and the drag type wings of low-revolution high-torque wings for waterwheels. The optimal combination of these wings and the integrated use together with the generator decreases opportunity loss and realizes high output. The standard ocean generation has 20-30% utilized capacity, while the new system has 30-50% utilized capacity. The company plans to commercialize the system toward 2014 as a small-scale dispersion type power source for isolated islands. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

No. 42: The smart village project starts with government support (March 19, 2012)

Business trend
Two government agencies, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan and the Ministry of the Environment, will jointly start the smart village project in which renewable energy supplies power in rural area. Besides utilizing agricultural water and thinned wood for power generation and heat supply, the project facilitates the installment of equipment for photovoltaic generation and wind generation in the fields and rice paddies that have been abandoned and are no longer cultivated. The project aims to help the rural area realize self-sufficiency of power.

The two agencies will invite public participation for the substantiative experiment to test the cost and combination of generation systems. They will select five locations in the country and assist municipalities financially in their substantiative experiments. They will screen the problems with distribution of power generated by sunlight and water, cost of management, and adjustment of irrigation right in using agricultural water. Rural areas have lots of idle lands for renewable energy generation in addition to thinned wood processable to woody biomass.

Currently, generation by renewable energy accounts for slightly above 1% of all power generation if large-scale hydraulic generation is excluded. The government wishes to increase the share to 3% in three years by utilizing small-scale hydraulic generation and the fields and rice paddies that have been abandoned and are no longer cultivated. For this purpose, it is critical to work out a system that allows the rural area to consume power generated locally.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

No. 41: Japan exerts more energy to develop marine renewable energy (March 18, 2012)

Business trend
Japan will build two plants for substantiative experiments for the development of marine renewable energy. Ocean Energy Association – Japan (OEA-J), a university-industry collaboration research agency made up of such organizations as Tokyo University and Mitsui Zosen, decided to collaborate with the central and local governments to build two plants for substantiative experiments of ocean energy including wave power and tidal energy. OEA-J exchanged memorandums with the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) on March 9. With the support from the EMEC, the OEA-J plans to build the two plants in two years at the earliest. 

Six prefectures are now the candidates for this project. The Japanese government will select a few locations by March next year, taking conditions, such as wave conditions, natural environment including wind velocity and ocean current, and influence over fishery, into consideration. The two plants will allow for plug-in experiments using the underwater cables. To put wave power and tidal energy into practical use, it is necessary to evaluate the profitability by confirming generation efficiency and durability. OCA-J plans to start the project with wave activated power generation and ocean current power generation, and they will be followed by ocean thermal energy conversion. Investment will be one to four billion yen for each plant.

Friday, February 24, 2012

No. 40: Local governments grow more serious about introducing renewable energy (February 25, 2012)

Business trend
Local governments across the country will intensify their efforts to introduce renewable energy with increased investment. Japanese prefectures combined allocated about 52 billion yen for renewable energy in 2012. Making the best use of regional characteristics, every local government will solidify the system of local production for local consumption of energy. Kanagawa Prefecture appropriated 866 million yen to build a large-scale photovoltaic generation plant (mega solar plant) with an output capacity of 2,000 kW. The plant to be operated by the prefecture is scheduled to go into operation in the summer of 2013. Niigata Prefecture will install generating equipment with an investment of 400 million yen in the mega solar it built last October to increase the generation capacity to 2,000 kW coming July.

Surrounded by the sea, Okinawa Prefecture plans to establish a generation system that uses the temperature difference between warm water close to the ocean surface and cold water in deep water. It will start a project in one of its islands. Two prefectures will start research on the utilization of wave force and tidal force. Another prefecture will utilize groundwater for the air-conditioning of greenhouses to grow vegetables and flowers. The system is to pump up groundwater for heat exchange using heat pump. Efforts to develop technology for power storage are also accelerating. Railway Technical Research Institute is developing a technology to store electricity generated by solar light and wind power through the application of the technology used for the linear motor car.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

No. 39: Canadian Solar comes to Japan (February 24, 2012)

Business trend
Canadian Solar, Canada’s largest solar cell manufacturer, is reportedly having negotiations with several local governments in the Tohoku district to construct a plant. The company will start the construction within the year if it gets favorable and acceptable conditions, and the new plant will go into operation after the spring of 2013. Because mega solar plants (large-scale photovoltaic generation plant) are being planned in the Tohoku district for the recovery from the March 11 disaster, it will build a base to get involved in the photovoltaic generation business. Canadian Solar in the world's third or fourth largest solar cell manufacturer in volume.  

The company will import solar cells from its plant in China and assemble them to build photovoltaic panels in Japan. The annual production capacity is estimated at 150,000 kW. The investment is estimated at several billion yen. Because the system to purchase all amount of renewable energy will start in July, the Tohoku district attracts wide attention both at home and abroad. Showa Shell is reportedly considering building a solar cell plant in the Tohoku district. It seems likely that the Tohoku district will become a cluster of companies involved in renewable energy business.