Sunday, July 3, 2011

No. 72: Prospect of natural energy in Japan – wave power generation (July 4, 2011)

In Japan, ocean energy is not positioned as new energy in the law designed to promote the utilization of new energy, nor is it subject to the buyback system. In Europe, three ocean power generators have been running offshore Portugal since September 2008 as the world’s first commercial wave ocean generation. In fact, Japan is 10 years behind from western countries in the development of wave power generation, though it started to work on wave power generation in the oil shock in 1975. However, Japan is moving now, even though very slowly.

A venture company from Kobe University conducted the substantiative experiment of wave power generation offshore Wakayama Prefecture. Circular discs rotate by the force of waves and run the generator to generate electricity when they get back to the original position. The research team confirmed that this generator has the maximum generation capacity of 50 kW with higher generation efficiency. Tokyo University and Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding will start the substantiative experiment of wave power generation offshore the Izu Island chain starting in 2014. They have already confirmed that they can get more than 15 kW for every 1 m width of a wave. They plan to employ a buoy type generator with a generation capacity of 80 kW and confirm whether or not they can get a generation cost of about 40 yen per KW.

The project team established by the Tokyo metropolitan government and Tokyo University estimates that ocean wind generation and wave power generation combined will have a generation capacity of 20-30 million kW that is equivalent to the power generated by 20-30 nuclear power generators. It suggested to the Japanese government that the nation should boost up the capacity of ocean energy to 1 million kW by 2020.

Responding to the above activities, the Japanese government launched the 5-year ocean energy research and development project with a budget of 1 billion yen, and will recruit private companies shortly. The project aims to develop the technology that realizes a generation cost of about 20 yen per kW by 2020.

Despite the fact that Japan is surrounded by the sea, the Japanese government was not fast enough to stimulate the development of generation technology that uses wave, temperature difference of seawater, and tidal currents. Japan is about to come to the surface again the in the field of ocean energy development again considering that a bipartisan commission formed by Diet members submitted an urgent proposal recently.

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