The Japanese government has at last started to promote renewables energy. At a conference in Japan 12 local governments or municipalities that already have installed wind turbines or are planning to do so each presented their energy history, their experiences with wind and their planning policies.

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Progress is at last being made by those in Japan pressing for some practical use of wind power in the country. In August, the first national Wind Summit for potential users of wind energy was held in Tachikawa on Yamagata Prefecture in northern Japan, where strong summer gales often cause agricultural damage.

The conference was attended by 12 local governments or municipalities that have installed wind turbines or are planning to do so, and drew an audience of 300. Tachikawa last year installed three 100 kW wind turbines supplied by Kenetech Windpower of California which are now supplying power to the grid.

Three academic leaders of wind energy conversion in Japan were invited to the Tachikawa conference as guest speakers -- Izumi Ushiyama, professor at Ashikaga Institute of Technology, Hikaru Matsumiya, senior researcher at the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory and Yukimaru Shimizu, professor at Mie University. Ushiyama opened the conference with a general introduction. Matsumiya followed with a statistical explanation of the world's current wind energy utilisation and Shimizu then talked about the high costs of wind turbine installation.

Each of the 12 participants introduced its wind energy history, experience, planning and policies. A common theme emerged from these presentations -- that people were anxious to deploy wind turbines which could harness usually harmful wind and convert it to useful electric power.

In terms of practical and economical wind energy conversion, Japan remains a developing country where the few wind turbines which are in place are seen more as symbolic monuments or landmarks for environmental campaigns rather than for use as commercial power facilities. Wind plant operators to date are generally local government and power companies, whose policies are still oriented toward expanding nuclear plant capacity. They collect wind data purely for future commercial installations.

The Japanese government, though, has started to promote renewable energies such as wind power. It has published a national wind atlas and is currently reviewing the strict laws and regulations for the installation of renewable energy sources.

Though the conference was only a one-day event and the talks were fairly general, it brought together people in Japan interested in wind energy and certainly improved communication within the industry. The organisers considered the conference a success and hope the second meeting will generate even more response and attract other private and public bodies who were absent from Tachikawa but are planning to install wind turbines.

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