Wind Power in Japan by Hikaru Matsumiya

However, the increase in wind power capacity each year has turned from an exponential curve to a linear curve. Therefore, the attainability of the national target is still under question. Some reasons for the deceleration in growth include legal reform of the Japanese Building Code in April 2007, the establishment of an extreme wind map as a guideline limiting development in some areas, and severe climactic events like typhoon and lightning strikes. Additionally, more than a few projects have been delayed or cancelled due to high-level requirements in getting legal permission and finding possible sites.

Another significant issue is grid connection. Compared with EU countries, Japan is very isolated, and so the influence of wind generation on grid stability is considered to be very large regardless of how small the penetration ratio is. Therefore, the electric power companies tend to limit new wind farm projects and often choose the small numbers of them allowed by random selection. Moving to offshore installations has not yet begun due to deep-water conditions, however a national investigation was initiated in 2008.

Progress Toward National Objectives

At the UN Climate Change Conference in Kyoto in December 1997, the Japanese government agreed to reduce the output of greenhouse gases by 6% (compared with the 1990 level) by 2010 (in the period 2008-12). To attain this target, the government decided to increase “new energy” (a term similar to renewable energy) to 3% of the primary energy supply by 2010 as outlined in the Primary Energy Supply Plan.

Wind power generation contributes 7% of this new energy, which made the target for wind power 3,000 MW, or 2.1% of the primary energy supply by 2010. In April 2003, the Japanese government passed legislation for a Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) in order to realize the national target for renewables by 2010. Under the original RPS, Japan’s utilities were obligated to use 12.2 TWh (1.35% of total electricity supply) from renewable sources by 2010. RPS targets are reviewed every four years. The new RPS target established in 2007 is 16.0 TWh (equivalent to 1.63% of total electricity supply) by 2014.

During fiscal year 2008, wind plants supplied 2.856 TWh, which is one third of the total supply generated from renewable sources.

However, judging from the 2008 year-end installation, it will be difficult to achieve the national wind target. To counteract natural and social obstacles to wind power development, the government has been running the following investigations or research programs:

• Wind Energy Business Support Program
• R&D of Advanced Wind Energy Technology
• Investigation on Offshore Wind Technology
• Field Test Programme
• Demonstration of Grid Stabilization
• Demonstration of Battery-Backup Wind Farms
• Subsidies for Grid-Connected Systems
• Wind Technology Standards (Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS)/International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC))

Japan’s cumulative wind power capacity was 1,538 MW with 1,331 units at the end of December 2007, and 1,880 MW with 1,508 units at the end December 2008. The annual net increase was 342 MW (increase ratio: 22.3%). Wind power generation in 2008 was 2.856 TWh and accounted for 0.313% of the national energy demand.

Most commercial wind farms have been developed with governmental promotional subsidy programs, which quickly accelerated developments. The average increase rate in the past 17 years is 63%. The five-year average increases are 46.8% (1994-1998), 83.9% (1999-2003), and 26.7% (2004-2008).

Benefits to National Economy

The wind turbine industry in Japan has been growing in recent years. Not only traditional Mitsubishi, but also several other manufacturers like Japan Steel Works, Ltd. and Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. have started mass production of 2-MW-class wind turbines.

Several bearing companies are also expanding their factories and many electric companies are exporting power devices corresponding for large numbers of orders from wind turbine manufactures around the world. The growth of the wind turbine industry brings so-called “green money” and “green jobs” for Japan. The production of wind turbines and their components has reached around 300 billion JPY/yr, according to data collected by the New Energy Foundation. More than 1,000 people are working directly in wind turbine mass production, and it is estimated that 4,000 to 15,000 jobs have been created among parts and devices companies.

The wind power market in Japan has rapidly progressed in the past 15 years. As a result, large wind farms have been developed. The largest wind farm was built in December 2008 in Izumo City in Shimane Prefecture. It has a total capacity of 78 MW from 26 3-MW Vestas turbines. Its operation is planned to start in June 2009. Today there are five wind farms that exceed 50 MW. Many entities are developing wind power: citizen groups, NPOs, third-party sectors, local governments, and big private companies.

Most of the large wind farms are owned by big wind energy developers. Japan has four wind turbine manufactures; Mitsubishi Heavy Industry (MHI, 2.4-MW), Fuji Heavy Industry, Ltd. (FHI, 2-MW), Japan Steel Works, Ltd. (JSW) (2-MW), and Komai Tekko Inc. (300-kW).

However, foreign manufacturers such as Vestas, GE Energy, and Enercon dominate the Japanese market. Approximately 83% (by capacity) of wind turbines were supplied by foreign turbine manufacturers. The top supplier is Vestas (21.7%), following GE Energy (19.5%), Mitsubishi (16.4%), Enercon (9.1%), NEg-Micon (6%), Gamesa (5,84%), Nordex (3,69%) and Repower (3,51%).

Nagashima Wind Hill, the third largest wind farm in Japan, began operation in June 2008 with 21 MHI 2.4-MW turbines. This was one of the last wind farms to employ MHI turbines before MHI temporary suspended selling their turbines in Japan.

Wind power capacity has increased very quickly in the past ten years; however, the sector has experienced a slowdown recently as detailed above. The four major reasons for this slowdown are natural external conditions, the legal system, grid systems, and economics. The Japanese market is deeply influenced by external conditions, both natural and grid-related. Extreme wind conditions such as tropical storms and typhoons, high turbulence due to complex terrain, and heavy lightning storms are the most important technical issues. Isolated from foreign countries by ocean, grid connection and stability is another severe barrier to wind power development. The country has a history of typhoons that blow down turbines in the summer. Lightning strikes in winter and summer, strong gusts, and high turbulence in complex terrains are also technical hazards.

These challenges define the external conditions in Japan. Therefore in 2008, the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) developed a safety guideline designed for Japanese meteorological and geographical conditions in order to provide technical measures against typhoons and lightning strikes and to help future wind turbine developments. As a result, some promising sites have to be carefully evaluated for safer development.

A new legal requirement has also limited development. According to the new Japanese Building Code, which became effective in June 2007, wind turbines over 60 m high shall be considered as a kind of building, and its height is defined as the top height of a blade from ground level. Under this revised code, the installation of wind turbines requires the minister’s sanction. The application procedure for planning permission is very complicated, time consuming, and expensive. The first project authorized under the new code was in July 2008, which means absolutely no new projects started between June 2007 and July 2008. However, the permission process is rather standardized now and many projects are being authorized.

The grid system in Japan has also prevented new wind farm developments in order to keep the stability and security of electricity supply. Geographically, the leading regions for wind power development are Tohoku and Hokkaido in the north of the country and Kyushu in the south. Unfortunately, the greatest electricity demands are concentrated in the center of Japan such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, while most of the potential wind power sites are located in remote areas where grid capacity is relatively small. Additionally, as a social system, this regional monopolistic grid system with very limited grid access forms a social barrier against challenging wind farm developments.

Another reason for the slowdown of wind turbine installations is the relatively high price of wind turbines due to the depreciation of Japanese Yen against the Euro and the U.S. dollar. This has a significant impact on Japanese wind power capacity because more than 80% of new wind turbine installations were imported. This impact seems to be decreasing, however, because the price of wind turbines started decreasing due to appreciation of Japanese Yen against the Euro and the U.S. dollar from the latter half of 2008. Because of this, a number of developers have started trying to reopen projects that had been shelved. However, new installations in 2009 are not expected to be high due to long the leadtime for delivery of wind turbines.

Several wind turbine manufacturers produce turbines in Japan. These manufacturers have developed new turbines that are more suitable for Japanese external conditions, such as higher tolerances for 50-year extreme gusts (above 70 m/s). A small but very stable wind farm development has been created by the local town government of Tomamae. It has developed a small wind farm since December 1998. The wind power plant consists of two 600-kW turbines and one 1,000-kW turbine. Nine years of operational data is available on the town’s home page.

Tomamae, located in Kokkakido, has good winds and is one of the biggest wind farm regions in Japan. This steady effort to record and report the wind farm’s operational data has encouraged many developers.

In general, the cost of a wind power plant in Japan is higher than in EU countries where wider grid systems are well developed. In Japan, there are additional costs because of requirements for grid connection and stability including battery backup plants.

A couple of years before 2007, it was reported at a national committee that the average cost of energy (COE) for a 25-MW wind farm was 10.2 JPY/kWh with subsidy. Generally COE was from 9.0 to 11.0 JPY/kWh for medium-sized wind turbines (unit capacities between 500 kW and 1,000 kW). For large-scale wind farms comprised of wind turbines with capacities of more than 1,000 kW, COE was in the range of 7.0 to 9.0 JPY/kWh.

The average wind turbine cost was approximately 100,000 JPY/kW and the average initial cost was estimated at 190,000 JPY/kW in 2003. However, wind turbine costs increased approximately 80% in 2007. About 50% of this increase was caused by a worldwide trend and 30% was due to the currency exchange rate between the Euro, the U.S. Dollar, and the Yen. The impact was significant as more than 80% of wind turbines have been imported from Europe and the United States. As of mid-2008, the average initial plant costs were around 300,000 JPY/kW and the electricity purchase price was 10.4 JPY/kWh.

National Incentive Programs

In fiscal year 2002, national wind energy R,D&D programs were closed and the main stream of governmental incentive programs on wind energy were switched to subsidies for wind plant developments and investigations on grid issues. However, the grid issues and external conditions such as extreme wind, high wind gusts, and lightning were found to be still technically important and investigations and demonstrations on these issues have been conducted for the past several years. NEDO reported J-Class (for Japanese conditions) Wind Turbine Guidelines in 2008 for the purpose of technical safety of wind turbines installed in Japan. An investigation program on offshore wind started as well.

The total budget was 26,483 million JPY, which is 94.3% of the budget in fiscal year 2007. The main support and market stimulation incentives are subsidies for Wind Project Support (Wind Business Support) and Subsidy Support for Grid Measures. The latter is a special incentive to encourage faster wind developments by solving the grid battery back-up system barrier.

National R, D&D efforts

Concerning wind technology R, D&D, three programs are running. It is also worth special mention that the basic research programs were revived, although the focuses are still in the field of applied technology.

Advanced Wind Technology is a comprehensive program which includes both basic and applied research. Two key areas are remote sensing for advanced wind measurements and lightning measurements and J-class wind models for development of future safety standards. The projects aim to keep international co-operation with IEA Wind R, D&D and IEC standards.

Under the Offshore Wind Technology Project, several candidates for offshore wind sites were selected to start feasibility studies and project designs. Based on the feasibility studies; wind, wave, and soil measurements; and offshore wind performance predictions, detailed designs will be conducted in 2009. Field Test Programme is a co-operative research project with NEDO that will take high-altitude wind measurements at several promising sites in order to develop useful wind databases.

Concerning demonstrations on grid issues, the Grid Stabilization Programme and Battery Back-up Demonstration Project were closed in 2008. One of the main technical targets of the Grid Stabilization Programme was to investigate the performance of wind generation prediction techniques using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) models. Its availability was well appreciated but it has not been introduced as a common and powerful tool to help solve the grid issues. The Battery Back-up Demonstration Project contributed technical experience, and its database will contribute to future wind development with higher penetration.

Standardization of wind turbine technology is very important for reliability and safety since Japan has some very severe external conditions onshore as well as offshore. Therefore, activities of the IEC and JIS are conducted by METI, NEDO, Japan Electrical Manufacturer’s Association (JEMA), and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

Since 1978, Japan has been the member of IEA Wind. In 2008, AIST expanded Japan’s involvement in collaborative research through participation in IEA Wind Research Tasks. Since 1988, Japan has been involved in IEC activities aimed at establishing international standards for wind turbine technology. The Japanese Wind Energy Association (JWEA) and the Japanese Wind Power Association (JWPA), have been cooperating as a member of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) since March 2005.

Author: Hikaru Matsumiya, Guest Researcher, National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan.