Japanese utility limits island wind purchase

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Overwhelmed by the interest in wind power development on the main island of Hokkaido in northern Japan (page 12), the local utility has slapped a 60 MW limit on power purchase contracts, capping any further development until March 2002. The utility estimates that 70 wind power projects with a combined output of 550 MW are in some stage of planning for Hokkaido. Most of these are based on the assumption that Hokuden will buy the output. Since April last year Hokuden has paid ¥12/kWh to 13 wind power plant currently in operation on the island under 17 year contracts.

The 60 MW limit does not include the two large wind farms now under development in Tomamae-a 20 MW project by international trader Tomen Corp (Windpower Monthly, February 1999), and a 30.6 MW project by Dream-Up Tomamae Co Ltd, a public/private joint venture. Neither does the limit include the 8.5 MW of existing wind capacity on the island.

The new limit will likely dampen the overall prospect for wind energy in Japan, and particularly in Hokkaido, the area of Japan which has attracted most interest from wind developers. The utility, Hokkaido Electric Power Company, or Hokuden, has set the limit because wind power supply is too unstable and too expensive, it says.

Some pressure has been put on Hokuden to ease the limit, including a request from the economic department of the Hokkaido government. Meanwhile, the utility plans to increase the capacity at block three of the Tomari Atomic Power Station to help meet the island's future electricity requirements. Hokuden stresses the expansion is not directly related to the new cap on wind power.

Before Hokuden said it would tender for no more than 60 MW additional wind power, it had received applications for power purchase from 13 planned wind projects with a combined generating capacity of 220 MW. Six applications were submitted by wind power companies and seven by trading and other companies. One of these proposals is for a 60 MW wind farm of 80 turbines in Horonobe by major trading house Itochu Corp and big steel maker NKK Corp. Another 30 MW wind plan for Nemuro City was submitted by the electric cable installation company Sanesu Denki Tsushin Co.

Hokuden expects to announce the contract winners for its 60 MW of power purchase contracts this month.

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