GE targets Japanese wind market

US wind turbine manufacturer GE expects to capture a good part of the growing Japanese onshore wind market, with the launch of a turbine specially designed for the country, says GE vice president for renewables Anne McEntee.

“When I look at what we already have installed here it’s about 20% of the capacity,” McEntee tells Recharge. She describes the 2.85-103 turbine, which GE launched at World Smart Energy Week today, as “the most technologically advanced turbine in the market”.

The machine has been designed to both capture low wind speeds and withstand typhoon conditions. It also features advanced lightning protection to address a problem that plagues Japanese wind projects at higher altitude sites.

McEntee says she is “excited” about the development of the Japanese onshore wind market since the establishment of the new feed-in tariff regime in 2012, in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

She notes that there are about 4GW of onshore wind projects in planning, and GE officials estimate that around 3GW could end up being approved.

Going forward, McEntee estimates that Japan will constitute an onshore wind market of about 300-400MW per year.

“It takes considerable time to get through the whole environmental assessment studies, but I’d say in the next one to two years we are going to see the market really develop,” she says, noting that the government is moving to invest heavily to improve grid connections, particularly between the wind- rich regions of northern Japan and the demand centres in the centre of the country.

“There is clearly a need for energy diversity here, with the disruption and recalibration of nuclear,” says McEntee. “Wind can come online quickly with zero fuel cost and zero emissions, so if you think about helping Japan meet its energy needs, wind is clearly a viable energy source.”

GE is trying to leverage its presence in the wider energy markets — with around 1,000 employees in the energy sector in Japan and its existing relationships with local utilities and other energy companies.

It is also leveraging its increasing presence in areas such as battery storage, smart grids and distributed energy.

GE is able to offer battery storage to Japanese customers in its new 2.85-103 turbine, using the same technology that features in its “brilliant” 2.5-120 turbine.

“We feel that this is another avenue for large industrial customers to be thinking about how they manage peak power pricing and also have back up power for 4-6 hour increments that will allow them to be there if something happens, like getting disconnected from the grid, load shedding and so on,” says McEntee.