LOS ANGELES, June 28 – Megasolar plants and wind farms scheduled to go online as early as July will add more than 2 million kilowatts to the Japan’s power capacity, the equivalent of two nuclear reactors, according to media reports.
Behind the surge in renewable energy projects is the July 1 launch of a feed-in tariff system, which requires utilities to buy power from renewable sources at fixed prices, the Nikkei business daily said.
A survey by Nikkei Inc. found that more than 110 solar power plants with an output of at least 1,000kw are in the works, with their total output at slightly more than 1.3 million kw.
An estimated 20 wind farms with an overall output of 750,000kw are to be built, with total construction costs put at more than 600 billion yen, excluding land expenses, the paper said.
Most of the megasolar plants are to go onstream by fiscal 2014, while the wind farms are expected to begin generating power by fiscal 2016.
The program covers solar, wind, geothermal and biomass power as well as small and midsize hydroelectric projects. The aim is to give renewable energy a boost by setting purchase prices higher than actual power generation costs.
While Japan has abundant geothermal energy sources, solar and wind power are expected to remain dominant for the time being due to the longer time needed to tap the Earth’s heat, Nikkei said.
The northern regions of Hokkaido and Tohoku, which offer many locations suitable for wind farms, will be home to wind turbines generating roughly 470,000kw, or about 60% of the total.
Meanwhile, the paper reported that the southern region of Kyushu, which receives lots of sunlight, will host new solar plants with total output of around 200,000kw.
In fiscal 2011, overall solar power generation, excluding solar panels on homes, was 800,000kw, and wind power output totaled 2.5 million kilowatts, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
Output from these two energy sources will likely grow about 60% thanks to the feed-in tariff program, with solar power output to surge about 160%.
The flip side of this boom, Nikkei said, is higher electricity bills for households.
A typical household that gets an electricity bill of 7,000 yen a month would get charged an average of 87 yen more per month as a result of the initiative. The additional cost burden on homes and corporations would total almost 200 billion yen a year, and this figure will grow as more renewable energy sources are tapped, the paper reported.