Going for peak profits

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Japan Wind Development is building the country's first commercial wind farm equipped with storage batteries. The 51 MW Rokkasho-mura Futamatsu project of 34 GE 1.5 MW turbines in Aomori Prefecture will include 17, 2 MW sodium sulphur (NAS) batteries for energy storage. The company is unable to give further details of the system, such as the capacity of the store in megawatt hours. Japan Wind Development is keeping its options open for sale of the system's electricity, but it may be sold to nearby Tohoku Electric Power (TEP), says the company's John Popham. Full operation, he says, is planned for April 2008.

The project is designed to appease the country's utilities, which are reluctant to take electricity generated from wind farms directly onto the grid because the supply is variable (main story). TEP is among Japanese utilities insisting that wind farm developers install batteries to ensure supply on demand if required, adding considerably to wind power's cost.

The Japanese government's New Energy Development Organisation is offering to subsidise up to a third of the capital cost of a wind plant that is equipped with battery storage and has allocated a ยด2.7 billion budget for this purpose in fiscal year 2007. "That obviously makes a difference," says Popham, whose company is benefiting from the subsidies. The aim is to sell the stored power at times of peak demand, when electricity prices should be at their highest. "At this stage it's not clear how much higher prices we'll be able to achieve by selling the electricity at peak times. We believe, obviously, that it will be economic," he says.

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