Renewable Energy in Japan
Technology and business trend of renewable energy in Japan
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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.

Bridge and 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 group, 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.

Nippon Steel 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.

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.

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 watermills. 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.
Related article

No. 37: Small-size generators are coming one after another (2/2) (February 19, 2012)

The small-size generation system utilizing sunlight increases presence, as does the small-size hydraulic power unit. Sinfonia Technology will introduce an integrated natural energy generation system with an output of 20 kW. The system is made up of a solar panel, small-size windmill, and waterwheel, each of which has an output between 5-10 kW. It also comes with a lead storage battery with a storage capacity of 10 kW. The new system will be priced at 40 million yen. The company plans to market it to isolated islands both at home and abroad with undeveloped infrastructure and municipalities as an emergency power source.

Hitachi High-Technologies has already started to market its small-size generation system that stores power in a storage battery to isolated islands in Indonesia. The system runs a water purification system by dint of photovoltaic generation and stores the generated power in a storage battery. With the special measure law to purchase renewable energy at hand in Japan, heavy electric machinery companies are intensifying their efforts to introduce small-size generation units. Because there are many areas that do not have a well-developed power network in Asia, they are serious about developing these markets, too.

No. 36: Small-size generators are coming one after another (1/2) (February 18, 2012)

Japanese heavy electric machinery makers are busily occupied in launching small-size generators in preparation for the special measure law to purchase renewable energy scheduled for enactment on July 1, 2012. Toshiba developed a small-size hydraulic power unit with a maximum output of 1 kW. It weighs about 50 kg and the diameter of the waterwheel is 0.7 m. It can generate where the water depth is more than 1 m and a drop between the upstream and downstream is 0.3-1.5 m. It is easily installable because what is needed is to bridge equipment loaded with waterwheel between the two banks. The output of 1 kW is enough to supply power to 25 fluorescent lamps or 100 LEDs. The unit is scheduled to be priced at 600,000 yen. The company plans to market it to municipalities that manage rivers and irrigation channels. It will be possible to recoup the investment in 7-8 years.

Mitsubishi Electric Plant Engineering, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric, developed a small-size hydraulic power unit with a maximum output of 9.9 kW. It weighs 43 kg that is one third of the existing model. It can generate even if the drop is 50 cm. It is a package product coming with a waterwheel and a generator, thus no civil work is necessary. In addition, the structure is hardly affected by sludge and sand contained in water because the waterwheel does not have axle bearing. The company wishes the unit to be used for power sources for plant factory, plastic greenhouse culture, and emergency electricity besides for charging electric vehicles.

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.

Sumitomo Chemical 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.

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.

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.

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

Hitachi Zosen 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.

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

Hitachi Zosen 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Kyoto University built a facility to conduct 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.

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.

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.

No. 72: Another step to the spread of fuel-cell vehicles (January 15, 2013)

JX Nippon Oil and Energy that operates 30% of nation's gas stations started to consider building 40 stations for supplying hydrogen across the country by 2015 when Japanese automakers are scheduled to launch fuel-cell electric vehicles in full swing. In January 2011, a total of 13 companies in the fields of automotive and energy set a target of building 100 hydrogen filling stations throughout Japan by 2015.

At this moment, substantiative experiments are under way in more than 10 hydrogen filling stations. The company is operating three hydrogen filling stations in Tokyo, and will start to operate two stations that supply both gasoline and hydrogen coming February. The fuel-cell vehicle is the front-runner of the next-generation eco-car. A fuel-cell passenger car can travel 700 km per charge, and it takes only three minutes for charging that is about the same time required to fill gasoline to capacity of a gasoline-driven car.

No. 71: Introduction of wind power generation increases for the first time in the past three years (January 9, 2013)


Japan Wind Power Association announced that the capacity of all new wind power plants scheduled to start operation in fiscal 2012 ending April 2013 will increase 8% over the preceding year to 92,000 kW, recording a year-on-year increase for the first time in the past three years. The system to purchase power generated by renewable energy at a fixed price started in July 2012. The estimated introduction of photovoltaic generation was 2,000,000 kW in 2012. That is, the introduction of wind power generation was less than one twentieth of the introduction of photovoltaic generation. This is because it takes longer to put a wind power plant into operation than a photovoltaic power plant.

Although the introduction of wind power generation recorded an increase for the first time in the past three years in 2012, it is one third of the level of introduction in the three years before 2010 when the government subsidized one third of initial investment for the introduction of a wind power plant. The total generation capacity of wind power generation as the end of 2012 was 2,610,000 kW. It is still a long way to go for the substantial spread of wind power generation.

No. 70: Japanese general trading companies participate in the renewable energy business worldwide (January 7, 2013)

Mitsubishi Corp. will invest 50% of the photovoltaic power plant run by the EDF group of France. Starting with this investment, the company plans joint management of the group's photovoltaic power plants and offshore wind power plants. It wishes to strengthen the alliance with the EDF group and get know-how necessary to expand renewable energy business worldwide. At the same time, it plans to ask the EDF group for cooperation for its renewable energy projects.

Mitsui has decided to participate in the renewable energy business project by the Canadian subsidiary of GDF Suez S.A. of France. Marubeni has already allied with a Danish company in the offshore wind power project, and the two companies are now running an offshore wind power plant in Great Britain. Sumitomo Corp. and Itochu invested in the world's largest wind generation plant that GE of the U.S. operates in the state of Oregon.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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, Science and 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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 excluding 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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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

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 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.

No. 38: Introducing a photovoltaic generation system to schools (February 20, 2012)

A company in Nagano Prefecture will start to install a photovoltaic generation system in local schools. With the support form the prefecture and an NPO, Sunjunior that specializes in the photovoltaic generation business plans to install the system in five local public schools this spring, and increase the number of schools to 700 in five years. The company will install a photovoltaic generation system with an output of 100 kW, which is equivalent to the output for 25 households, on the roof of school building. The system will come with an emergency power source and LED lighting to provide a gymnasium with the function as an evacuation center in a time of disaster.

It costs about 40 million yen to install the system. Sunjunior will bear part of the cost, and the remaining expenses will be covered by the investment from local companies, local residents, and graduates. Generated power will be sold to electric power companies, and investors will collect their investments from the revenue of selling electricity. The company is working on the details of investment with the NPO, Renewable Energy Shinshu-net, and they wish the investment to be collected in 20 years. While running the system, the company will improve the generation efficiency and operation method to establish the optimal system. With the growing concern over renewable energy, grass-roots projects are expected to spread nationwide in Japan.

No. 35: Using fallen leaves and dead branches for power generation (January 18, 2012)

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism decided to install generation equipment in large-scale government-managed parks as an emergency power source in a time of disaster. It plans to start testing in one or two of the 17 government-managed parks across the country. The equipment to be installed generates by running a turbine using gases created by steaming fallen leaves and dead branches. It is designed to keep high generation efficiency even with unhomogeneous fuels. The ministry plans to put the technology into practical use in one year in alliance with private companies.

The electricity to be generated will be used for lighting inside the park normally and for rescue activities in case of power outage in a disaster. The ministry calculates that a government-managed park in Tokyo with an area of 1,650,000 square meters can supply enough amount fallen leaves and dead branches to generate about 10% of annual electricity demand. The ministry decision aims to decrease the amount of plant trash by using weeds and fallen leaves as fuel. About 2,000,000 tons of plant trash is produced annually in this country, most of which is incinerated while only a small amount is used for fertilizers.

No. 34: Using earth thermal for energy saving in a production plant (January 6, 2012)

Japan is behind western countries in the application of earth thermal. Thanks to technological development, however, it has become possible to use earth thermal in a clean room that needs strict management of room temperature, and Fujitsu will start to use earth thermal for energy saving in one of its production plants shortly. In this plant, a total of 31 pipes are dug in down to 30 m below ground to collect earth thermal that is 15 degrees centigrade throughout the year. The plant will collect earth thermal efficiently using the heat pump technology. The collected earth thermal will also be used to warm air after dehumidification in summer.

The capital investment is 70 million yen, and the payback period is 14 years. The company plans to introduce the same system in other production plants. The system is estimated to reduce 50 kiloliters per year as compared with the existing air-conditioning equipment that uses city gas. In addition, about 120 tons of carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced, the company estimates. The application of earth thermal is growing popular steadily in Japan now, and it is expected to accelerate with the introduction in production plants.

No. 33: Growing popularity of offshore wind farming in Asia (January 2, 2012)

The offshore wind farming market is estimated to grow nearly three times in 2015 over the level in 2011. Since Denmark launched offshore wind farming in the 1990s, Europe has been taking the initiative in this business. Following Europe, Asian countries have grown serious about introducing offshore wind farming. Because wind farming creates lots of supporting industries, companies with advanced technology are asked to explore business opportunities.

J-Power Systems and Sumitomo Corp. jointly got an order for the laid down of undersea power cable between an isolated island and the main island of Taiwan that stretches 350 km for 32 billion yen, beating JS Cable of Korea in the international tender. J-Power Systems will build the power cable in Japan, and Sumitomo Corp. will undertake the laid down and civil engineering work. A total of six cables, each of which is 15 cm in diameter, will be laid down. Offshore wind farming is expected to grow more popular as renewable energy source in Japan, China, and Southeast Asian countries.

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

Cosmo Oil 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.

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

Mitsubishi Chemical 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.

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

Chiyoda Corp. 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.

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.

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.

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 Development Organization (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.

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.

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 and Steel 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.

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.

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.

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 National Institute 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

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, Idemitsu Kosan, 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.

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 Eurus Energy 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.

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 Bioethanol Technology, 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 Nippon Steel 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.

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.