Heavyweights back development plans

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EcoPower Co Ltd -- a new Tokyo company with financial backing from several of Japan's business heavyweights -- has plans to install over 60 MW of wind plants in Japan over the next three years, amounting to a total of 161 wind turbines. It is a significant addition to wind power capacity in a country which so far has shown little interest in developing its wind resource. Over the past 20 years no more than 30 wind turbines, of varying sizes, have been erected in Japan.

According to EcoPower's business plan, the development will require an investment of YEN 20 billion and be executed in three stages, starting with 15 wind turbines in the first year, amounting to 6 MW of capacity, followed by 39 and 107 turbines in the second and third years, respectively, amounting to 15.6 MW and 53.5 MW. The company's turnover is budgeted at YEN 22.3 billion after three years.

The wind generated electricity will be sold to utilities at YEN 16/kWh under power purchase contracts with utilities secured by EcoPower. The domestic sales price of electricity in Japan averages YEN 25.26 kWh and there are two business rates: YEN 16/kWh for large buildings and YEN 10/kWh for heavy industry.

EcoPower has strong links to Ecology Corp, which for the past six years has been the Japanese agent for Danish Micon, now NEG Micon Ltd. The new company is headed by Takeru Kojima, who is also president of Ecology Corp. EcoPower is planning to establish subsidiaries in each of Japan's 20 prefectures and will invite local companies and electric utilities to become shareholders.

An impressive array of backers has been gathered by EcoPower for its ambitious plans, with a list of supporters reading like a "Who's who" of the Japanese business community. Kojima is one of three original founders of the company. The others are Sachio Semmoto, famous in Japan as a co-founder of the country's first private telephone company, DDI, and Hiroyuki Fujimura from Ebara Manufacturing Co, an employer of 5000.

Semmoto's link to EcoPower is through Ecology Corp where he is chairman, having sold his shares in DDI. Fujimura is a member of the board of EcoPower, which is considering using Ebara's engineers to carry out operations and maintenance of its planned wind power plant. Ebara produces a range of gas and water turbines as well as solar panels. Its only involvement in wind energy to date was when it dabbled in research several years ago.

The three founders have invested about a third each in EcoPower, which has a share capital of YEN 1.4 billion. This is soon to be increased to YEN 1.7 billion by 16 new shareholders, all big companies. Among them are Asahi Beer, Sumitomo Bank, consumer-finance company Orix, insurance company Tokyo Marine & Fire, and the big trading company, Tomen Corp, already a significant wind investor (Windpower Monthly, June 1997).

Among the new shareholders is also Japan's biggest security company, Nomura Securities. General manager Kenichi Fukuhara says Nomura hopes to list EcoPower on the stock exchange in three to five years. "The two first years we plan to buy wind turbines from Micon in Denmark, because we are familiar with their technology and performance," says director Takeru Kojima from EcoPower. "But after that we will probably also like to buy from other manufacturers."

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