Nation’s wind power generation capacity grew fivefold in last decade

Kyodo

The nation’s wind power capacity has climbed about fivefold to 2.5 million kw over the past decade, sources say.

But growth in fiscal 2011 shrank to just under 100,000 kw — the slowest pace in the decade — following the termination of subsidies for wind plant construction the previous year, the sources said Saturday.

The government expects electricity produced by wind power and other renewable energy sources to continue expanding after the so-called feed-in tariff system kicks off in July. The system requires utilities in principle to buy, at fixed rates, electricity from other entities that is produced by environmentally safe methods, such as solar or wind power.

A government panel recently proposed fixing the price for electricity generated by wind power at ¥23.1 per kwh — a level deemed profitable enough for nonutilities to stay in the game, industry sources said.

The Japan Wind Power Association expects that government efforts to promote the use of renewable energy won’t spur a notable increase in wind farm construction until around fiscal 2015, given the environmental impact assessments and other time-consuming preparations needed to enter the business.

The Japan Wind Power Association, formed by companies and municipalities, estimates the nation can generate 740 million kw worth of wind power on land and offshore on a commercial basis.

The association hopes to see Japan’s capacity rise to 50 million kw by 2050 so it can cover more than 10 percent of national demand.

Beating the heat

JIJI

Planting trees will top the government’s list of steps to consider to combat urban heat islands this summer, sources say.

Past measures have included greening the roofs of office buildings, promoting low-emission vehicles and designing ventilation paths for winds to flow through in cities.

The new guidelines will include ways to help people cope with the heat when they are outdoors, the sources said.

One idea is to plant trees along city streets to create more shade.

The government plans to hold talks with the Environment Ministry, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry and other related organizations to draw up the new guidelines before the summer, according to the sources.

The current guidelines, published in March 2004, were the first presentation of Japan’s efforts to tackle urban heat islands, in which cities are turned into sweltering concrete islands of misery by air conditioner and automobile exhaust combining with heat radiating from asphalt roads and parking lots.

Some scientists have pointed out that the phenomenon is partly responsible for the sporadic downpours that are increasingly frequent in the Tokyo area, as well as the rise in the number of nights when temperatures stay above 25 degrees.

The measures, however, are taking time to show results because such programs are often tied in with other long-term policies related to energy-saving initiatives and efforts to fight global warning.