Japan to bolster northern grid

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has started accepting proposals from a range of companies to participate in the expansion of the country’s northern electricity grid, in a bid to encourage regional wind development.

The national government will cover roughly half of the expected construction costs, according to a statement from an entity operating under METI.

The ministry said last month it had asked for 25bn yen ($253m) to finance the expansion of the northern grid, as part of a 198.1bn yen budget request to support the development of renewable energy next year.

As METI expands the northern grid, it is also addressing problems posed by variable supplies from renewable resources.

Earlier this summer, power equipment manufacturer Sumitomo Electric Industries won a contract to provide a large-scale battery with 60MWh of storage capacity on Hokkaido, to regulate and expand transmission of solar and wind power.

Telecoms giant Softbank, conglomerate Marubeni and Eurus Energy – a joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) and a unit of Toyota – are interested in participating, according to Japanese media reports.

The public/private effort to expand the northern grid will involve the establishment of a special purpose-company to build and operate new grid lines. The effort will initially focus on the northern island of Hokkaido, followed by Aomori and Akita prefectures.

In July, a consortium led by METI, Marubeni and the University of Tokyo deployed a 2MW Hitachi floating turbine 20km off the coast of Fukushima prefecture to test floating wind systems over a five-year period.Commissioning of the turbine is due to start as early as October.