Japan

Japan

Government entity takes major role -- Leading by example in Japan

Japan's Electric Power Development Co (EPDC), a semi-public energy project developer, sees its role as the main promoter of wind energy in the country. It is currently building two of the biggest wind farms in Japan so far -- a 30.6 MW project at Tommae in Hokkaido and a 25 MW wind farm at Nikaho in Akita prefecture. Work on another 20 MW project at Kusumaki, or "Town of the Wind," in Iwate prefecture is to start next year.

The government owns 67% of EPDC, which was created in 1952 to help develop the Japanese electricity system and thereby the national economy. The remaining 33% is owned by ten utilities, though there is talk of privatising the company in three years time. EPDC operates 66 power stations with a combined capacity of nearly 15,000 MW made up of coal, hydro and geothermal plant which together represent 7% of Japan's total power capacity. Not only is EPDC now moving into wind energy, it will soon be building its first nuclear plant. Furthermore, EPDC is the only Japanese power company authorised to engage in technical co-operation overseas as part of the country's foreign aid programs.

The Tommae Winvilla Power Plant of 14 Vestas 1.65 MW machines and five Enercon 1.5 MW units will go on-line in December, while work has just started on development of the 25 MW Nikaho site. This plant will not be commissioned until December 2001 and is being developed by an EPDC part-owned subsidiary, Nikaho Kogen Wind Power Co, which has a share capital of ´100 million. The company is 67% owned by EPDC, with the remainder owned by Orix, Japan's biggest leasing company, and two local Akita firms, Eco Materia Co and Kyowa Sekiyu.

Subsidies have been granted for the Nikaho project from the country's national wind program run by the New Energy Development Organisation and a 17 year contract clinched with the local Tohoku Electric Power Co for sale of the power at ´11.5/kWh. Site wind speed is 7.1 m/s and the plant will consist of 15 Vestas 1.65 MW turbines, the towers for which will be made in Japan.

EPDC has several further wind farms in the works, says the company's Naoki Ohmyo, all of which are over 10 MW. EPDC has started a feasibility study for an offshore project and completed studies for three wind power projects abroad. Wind measuring has been undertaken in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, at Sakhalin in Russia, and on the South Pacific island of Tonga. Projects abroad will probably be carried out in co-operation with other companies, such as trading firms, in order to secure financing. The Japanese government is considering the use of overseas development funding for wind farms abroad.

Ohmyo stresses that EPDC is an all round energy developer which can handle all aspects of a wind project, from wind measurement to maintenance. The wind section employs 20 people so far. According to Ohmyo, EPDC's role is to support the Japanese government's aim of greatly expanding the use of its wind resources by demonstrating the development of profitable wind farms to the private sector.

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