As part of its policy of moving away from nuclear power, the Japanese government is pushing ahead with renewables and improved energy efficiency. Given the urgent need to cut energy demand, following the shut down of all its nuclear plants in May, it encouraged voluntary energy saving initiatives, with some success. Although, despite major protest, two nuclear plants have now been started up again, the summer air conditioning load may still present problems, and the energy savings programme is being expanded. The government has called for 15% cuts. It has also requested retailers and home appliance makers to voluntarily halt production and sale of inefficient incandescent lightbulbs. Under Japans existing basic energy plan, all lighting products were already meant to be replaced by LED or other low energy lights by 2020. Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics says that, if all incandescent bulbs/fluorescent lamps currently used were replaced by LED lights, the total annual power saved would be 9%, the equivalent output of 13 nuclear reactors.
Understandably, given that Japan is a series of relatively crowded Island with constraints on land use, the renewables programme is focused heavily on offshore resources. The government is supporting the development of a range of marine power technologies with plans for a series of trials next year. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Environment and others have earmarked a total of 10 billion yen for promoting marine renewable energies in the fiscal 2012 budget. Most of the funds are for projects related to floating wind turbines.
Four different designs for offshore wind floating platforms will be installed off the coast of Fukushima in 2013 and 2014, as part of a demonstration project funded by $300m the Japanese government Ministry of Trade, Economic and Industry. Eleven companies and organisations will collaborate on ‘FORWARD’, the Fukushima floating Offshore Wind farm Demonstration project, with Japanese conglomerate Marubeni leading. Companies contributing innovative floating platform designs include IHI Marine United, Mitsubishi and Mitsui. The port of Onahama, near the city of Iwaki, will serve the Forward project. The government hopes that the Forward project will result in the emergence of one or more commercially-viable designs for offshore wind floating platforms.
Windpower Monthly reported that the first stage, in 2013, will involve installation of a floating 2MW downwind turbine, on a compact semi-submersible base. In 2014, two further turbines, 7MW designs by Mitsubishi, will be installed, one to be carried by a v-shape semi-sub and the other by an advanced spar-float, possibly like the Norwegian Sway /Hywind designs. A second demonstration project, funded by Japan’s environment ministry. in the Goto islands, is already underway with a small 110kW turbine on a floating platform. It’s planned to replace it with a 2MW turbine next year.
Given that the area, about 20km off the Fukushima coast, has suffered radioactive contamination, the future of fishing there is uncertain so there may be no conflict; indeed offshore wind could provide alternative employment for former fishermen, if this proves necessary. Certainly this industry could expand. According to early reports, Japan could have up to 1GW of offshore wind capacity in place by 2020,
In addition, Japan is following up other offshore options. The marine energy programme will be expanded in 2013 to include tidal and wave energy, along with OTEC ocean thermal gradient technologies. Tests are likely to be carried out off the Tohoku & Kyushu regions, in co-operation with the private sector and universities. In parallel, the Ocean Energy Association of Japan (OEAJ), is to set up a Japanese Marine Energy Centre (JMEC), with help from EMEC in Scotland. It’s a two-way exercise: Kawasaki Heavy Industries is to test a newly developed tidal energy system at EMEC on the Orkneys.
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