Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Alternative Energy - Japan

Let's talk about alternative energy development in Japan

Alternative energy usually requires one resource that Japan is a little short on...space.

Japan, as small as it is geographically, is a densely populated country and that puts space for installations at a premium. This makes the Japanese market for alternative energy sources a bit more difficult when compared with most other markets.

However, if we consider use of near-shore installations or even offshore installations in the future, that will give us the possibility of continued use of wind energy and possibly solar energy for Japan as well.

If, however, we try to build offshore, it's more expensive because the construction of the necessary foundations is expensive. On the other hand, we often find that the wind is stronger offshore. That could offset the higher construction costs. Also, the equipment for wind power is getting more and more competitive from a cost point of view. The price, if you measure it per kilowatt-hour produced, is going down, due to the fact that turbines and other necessary components are getting more efficient.

So, there is increased interest in wind energy for Japan.

If you compare it to other renewable energy sources, wind power is possibly the most competitive alternative energy source today. If we are able to use sites close to the sea or at sea with good wind power machines, then the price per kilowatt-hour is very competitive against other sources of energy.

These are the thoughts of Svend Sigaard, who is president and CEO of the world's largest wind turbine maker, Vestas wind systems, located in Denmark. Vestas is heavily involved in investments of capital into helping Japan expand its wind turbine power generating capacity. It is seeking to get offshore installations put into place in a nation that it says is ready to reap the fruits of investment into alternative energy research and development.

Having learned from history, the Japanese know that they can never again become subservient to the energy supply dictates of foreign nations. World War II taught them that, as the US decimated their oil supply lines and crippled their military machine. They need to produce energy of their own, and, being an isolated island nation with few natural resources that are conducive to energy production as it is presently defined, are very open to foreign investment and foreign development as well as the prospect of technological innovation that can make them independent. Allowing corporations such as Vestas to get the nation running on more wind-produced energy is a step in the right direction for the Japanese people.

Other souces of power:

The production of alternative energy through what is known as microhydoelectric power plants has also been catching on in Japan.

Japan has a great many rivers and mountain streams, and most of these are ideally suited places for the erection of microhydroelectric power plants, which are defined by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization as 'power plants run by water which have a maximum output of 100 kilowatts or less".

Just for a quick comparison, “minihydroelectric” power plants can put out up to 1000 kilowatts of electrical energy.

In Japan, the bothe mini- and micro-hydroelectric power plants have been regarded for some time as being suitable for creating electricity in mountainous regions, but, with refinement, they have also come to be regarded as excellent alternative energy sources for Japanese cities as well. Kawasaki City Waterworks, Japan Natural Energy Company, and Tokyo Electric Power Company are but a few of the organizations which have been involved in the development of small-scale hydroelectric power plants within Japanese cities.

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