To date Japan has been sceptical of large scale wind, not believing it has a suitable resource. This is disputed by wind developers who are keen to take advantage of the new long term power purchase contracts for wind and the requirement that utilities must buy wholesale electricity from bigger wind farms. Government subsidies of 33% for large developments are also available (Windpower Monthly, May 1998).
EPDC says its scheme became viable when five of Japan's major utilities agreed to buy power from the wind farms in order to promote clean energy, among them Hokkaido Electric Power Co and the Tokyo Electric Power Co. EPDC, which has not applied to the New Energy Development Organisation (NEDO) for a subsidy, is a wholesale electricity supplier set up by the government in 1952 to sell power Japan's ten regional utilities.
A wind turbine supplier has yet to be chosen, says Tetsuya Yoshida from EPDC, and sites are still being investigated. One wind farm is planned for western Hokkaido, the northern Japanese island. Feasibility studies are ongoing in other areas of Hokkaido. The wind farms will not be operational until 2000, at the earliest.
Unlike EPDC, Tomen is seeking a NEDO subsidy for its 20 MW and it says the ¥4.5 billion project hinges on this being granted. The site earmarked for the wind farm is owned by the city of Tomamae in Hokkaido.
Tomen is currently involved in the construction of over 700 MW of wind power projects in Europe: 170 MW in Italy using Vestas turbines; 525 MW of wind farms in Spain using Bonus turbines (Windpower Monthly, March 1998); and a 10 MW project in Portugal. The company also says it has financial interests in wind farms in England and Scotland, generating nearly 60 MW, and in 170 MW of wind farms in California.
EPDC operates 65 power stations with a combined capacity of nearly 14,000 MW, or 7% of total power supply in Japan. The power stations are coal, hydro and geothermal. This is the company's first wind venture. EPDC is the only Japanese power company authorised to engage in technical co-operation overseas as part of the country's foreign aid programs.