If you build a grid, will they come?
Attempt to spur wind power generation in Japan's northernmost island
TOKYO -- A consortium of Japanese companies plans to run power lines across a 100km stretch of a blustery region in Hokkaido to secure the means of transmitting electricity generated by wind power.
Involved in the project are Eurus Energy Holdings, Eco Power and four other companies. The transmission lines will run from the town of Nakagawa to the city of Wakkanai in northern Hokkaido, the country's northernmost major island. Construction will begin in April 2019, with completion slated for October 2021. Half the estimated cost of 50 billion yen ($442 million) will come from government subsidies.
The swath of land is said to be one of the best locations in Japan for wind power. But this advantage has not been utilized because the underpopulated area is served only by small-capacity power lines owned by Hokkaido Electric Power.
With the high-capacity power link set to address the infrastructure bottleneck, Eurus Energy, a Toyota Tsusho affiliate, will build seven wind farms in the area by March 2023, creating a roughly 600,000kW generation capacity. Eco Power, a Cosmo Energy Holdings unit, too, is drawing up a plan to set up a wind farm with a roughly 70,000kW capacity. The power lines will be accessible to third parties in hopes of bringing in more operators.
The Environment Ministry estimates that 49% of onshore locations that are suitable for wind power generation in Japan are found in Hokkaido. Thus, the region is key to a government goal of tripling wind power generation by 2030.
Insufficient transmission capacity plagues the Tohoku region in northeastern Japan as well, where many promising locations for wind farms also exist. In the southern region of Kyushu, the same issue stands in the way of solar farm development. The project to build power lines by Eurus Energy and others may inspire similar efforts in those places.