A two year project to get to the heart of criticism from Japanese utilities that wind power on a grid can destabilise it will be launched April 1 by the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI). Japanese utilities have been slow to develop wind energy as well as buy it from independent developers, despite government subsidies. Hokkaido Electric Power Co in the north has even limited the amount of wind electricity it will buy, and other utility companies are said to be considering similar measures (Windpower Monthly, December 1999). The utilities argue that wind power is unstable and vulnerable to rapid and sharp fluctuations. Such fluctuations may disturb the voltage and frequency of power lines, which would result in problems in electronic devices in factories and private homes, the utilities say. No research has been conducted to date in Japan to prove this. In countries with a far greater wind penetration, however, studies have shown that wind creates few, if any, problems, either at the local level or at system level; data from operational wind farms usually show that power fluctuations are less than simulation studies have suggested. Nonetheless, MITI has asked the New Energy and Industrial Development Organisation (NEDO) to examine the issue. NEDO plans to erect wind measuring devises at dozens of locations around the country, as well as build a large wind power plant simulation that produces changing wind velocities and other variables. NEDO hopes to be able to use all the data in an additional computer simulation program to examine whether the use of wind generated electricity alters the voltage and frequency of electricity supplied to private homes. The new initiative is part of MITI's plan to increase alternative energy, fuelled by public pressure after an accident at a nuclear power plant last year (Windpower Monthly, January 2000). MITI aims to increase wind power generation in the country to 300 MW by 2010, up from 80 MW today. The ministry has also set a target for 2200 MW to be produced by fuel cells by 2010, and it has nearly doubled the budget on fuel cell research for this year to JPY 8.1 billion, up from JPY 4.6 billion in 1999.
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