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Small-scale geothermal power development picking up in Japan

Close to Hachimantai, Iwate Prefecture, Japan (source: flickr/ By jasohill, creative commons)
Alexander Richter 27 Feb 2017

Development of small-scale geothermal projects is picking up with a 7 MW project to start operation this spring and other projects kicking off.

With a drive for renewable energy development since the Fukushima disaster, Japan has not seen the expected surge in geothermal development. But despite support, geothermal power generation capacity remains at around 500 MW in the country.

But there now seem to be some promising smaller-scale geothermal projects  picking up, as reported by Asia Nikkei.

With a generous feed-in-tariff for smaller scale geothermal plants, there have been several projects being on the drawing table over the past few years.

Now a joint venture by JFE Engineering, Mitsui Oil Exploration, the government-backed Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp., and Japan Metals & Chemicals will break ground on a roughly 7-MW geothermal plant in Iwate Prefecture in March. The facility, expected to cost 8.5 billion yen ($75.8 million), is slated to begin operation in 2018.

As part of the feed-in-tariffs introduced in 2012, smaller scale development which would take less time and less funding, is supported with higher feed-in-tariff for plants with an output below 7.5 MW. The projects also don’t require an environmental impact assessment.

Beside the project in Iwate Prefecture there are others that are moving forward.

  • Orix: about to sign an agreement on the construction to build a 4.4 MW geothermal plant on the island of Hachijojima in replacement for an older Tokyo Electric Power facility. The investment is expected to be around 5 billion yen ($44 million) with a planned start of operation by 2022.
  • Orix is surveying various other potential geothermal sites with around 10 projects of a total capacity of 30 MW being considered.
  • Idemitsu Kosan is building a 5 MW geothermal plant and is expected to start operation in Oita Prefecture next month.
  • Electric Power Development/ J-Power: working on the first large-scale geothermal plant in a long time. The 42 MW facility to start operation in 2019 is located in Akita Prefecture.

There are various other projects but they are tied down in environmental assessment or other stages of preparations.

Source: Asia Nikkei