POWER UTILITY | Karen Mesina, Japan

Japan's billowing wind power industry grapples with grid constraints

Its current grid capacity cannot handle the surge of wind energy.

Japan's wind power generating facilities that are currently in operation hit 3,378MW as of March 2017, whilst those under development are at around 10.5GW. However despite these impressive figures, the wind power industry is grappling with grid constraints according to Yoh Yasuda, project professor, Research Programme of Renewable Energy Economics, Graduate School of Economics, Kyoto University.

The country's cross-regional grid operation has long been in the pipeline but rules and regulations have yet to be reformed comprehensively. Additionally, grid constraints are getting more difficult to deal with in areas with good wind.

For Hokkaido, an area often targeted for wind projects due strong winds in the area, new wind facilities should have battery to avoid variations of output to the grid.

"The government has worked out certain alternative ideas to cope with the situation. The wind industry is anxiously waiting for constructive and feasible proposals by electric utilties based on discussions," Yasuda said in a keynote session at the World Smart Energy Week 2018. 

Hokkaido Electric has proposed for additional capacity of 1,000MW for the grid connection: 600MW for the first phase and 400MW for the second phase. Further, the power utility proposed the use of batteries to be installed at the HEPCO's gride side instead of being installed at every wind facility.

Lastly, it suggested further cost allocation which will be shared by both generators and HEPCO. 

To strengthen the grid, Yasuda said that grid infrastructures must be improved according to the "decommissioning of old facilities." "Not only cross-regional grid connecting lines must be improved, but also local grid lines at good wind resource areas such as Hokkaido and Tohoku, which are important for wind power promotion in Japan," he added.

The World Smart Energy Week 2018 is currently being held in Tokyo, Japan from 28 February to 2 March. 

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