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Wind development in Japan got a boost last month when utilities announced the start of long term contracts for independent generators. Utilities will now pay JPY 11-12/kWh for wind generated power for up to 17 years. Previously, contracts needed renewing each year, though they did pay a higher JPY 15-16/kWh.

The new pricing system was proposed by Japan's Ministry of Trade and Industry and adopted by the power companies (MITI). Currently, Japan has just 17 MW of wind capacity in the ground, but this is due to be more than doubled over the next few months thanks to the efforts of the New Energy Development Organisation (NEDO) and separate commercial initiatives (main story) as well as a program by the Okinawa New Energy Development Co to test 12 European turbines (Windpower Monthly, April 1998). As a result MITI's official wind target for 20 MW by 2000 will easily be surpassed. Officials are currently working on a new wind target for the year 2010.

Japan's wind potential has been estimated to be as high as 35,000 MW -- or as low as 1500 MW -- depending upon the positioning of turbines, according to the NEDO, a department overseen by MITI. NEDO has developed three energy scenarios for wind power in Japan. Meantime, MITI is considering financing wind projects in poor countries as a form of foreign aid.

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