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International relations

Japan to give wind power a spin in Russia's Far East

Energy project is part of an economic collaboration effort

The experiment will see if wind power can be harnessed to cut the region's diesel fuel consumption.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- Japan will build and conduct trials of a wind power generation system in Russia's Far East, one of the joint projects growing out of a 2016 economic cooperation pact.

The wind-diesel hybrid system will be set up in the remote Sakha Republic of Russia, which borders the Arctic Ocean. Three wind turbines will be shipped to Russia this month, and construction will begin this summer. The test run is to begin around the fall of next year once diesel equipment is added. The energy and cost-saving benefits will be monitored for about a year before a decision is made on full-scale introduction.

Russia's vast Far East region is heavily dependent on small diesel-fueled power generators, with poor energy efficiency. The hybrid system is expected to cut the region's diesel fuel consumption by about 20%. Russia plans to introduce the system to other cold areas if the experiment succeeds in boosting efficiency.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin are expected to approve the project when Abe visits Russia later this month. It will be their first meeting since Putin's re-election. Energy development is one of eight areas of the economic cooperation pact made by the governments two years ago.

Abe hopes the project will help build trust between the neighboring countries -- a key consideration for Russia in resolving long-standing territorial issues. The initiative also should open opportunities for Japanese companies in wind power generation.

Tensions between Russia and the Western alliance are at a post-Cold War high, aggravated by the Donald Trump administration's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. For Japan, whose defense rests on its alliance with the U.S., cooperation with Russia can be a delicate matter.

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