Ten companies including Idemitsu Kosan Co. and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. will kick off a study this month on building one of Japan's largest geothermal power plants, government officials said Friday.

The plant, to be built in a national park in Fukushima Prefecture, would have an estimated capacity of 270,000 kw, or about half of all geothermal power capacity nationwide.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry intends to subsidize the study, the officials said.

Geothermal plants generate electricity by extracting steam emitted by magma deep underground through winzes to rotate turbines. It is considered more stable than wind or solar power, which is vulnerable to climatic changes.

Japan's potential geothermal resources are estimated at 23.5 million kw, the third-largest in the world, raising hopes that tapping them may help cover the shortfall caused by idling nuclear plants due to the Fukushima disaster.

The companies involved plan to examine an area of around 80 sq. km around Mount Bandai, a stratovolcano in Fukushima, in a year. Test drilling, environmental impact assessments and construction are expected to take 10 years.