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An installed geothermal capacity of 2,600 MW as realistic target for Japan

The Power+ unit of Electratherm on site in Beppu, Japan (source: Electratherm)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 12 Mar 2019

With only a margin of its geothermal potential tapped, the government of Japan is targeting an installed geothermal power generation capacity of 1,600 MW, while industry sees a more realistic target of 2,600 MW.

In a recent article the geothermal resources of Japan are described as the third largest of the world after the United States and Indonesia. With l5420 MW of installed geothermal power generation capacity at the end of 2018, Japan is merely touching its estimated 23,000 MW potential.

Following the Fukushima catastrophe, the country looked increasingly into renewable energy development, including geothermal. But not much has happened, despite increased interest in geothermal energy.

Interesting the first geothermal power plant goes back to 1925, when an experimental plant started operation in the hot-spring resort of Beppu in Oita Prefecture. This is not long after the first geothermal power plant went online about 20 years prior at Lardarello, Italy.

The first full-scale geothermal power plant then went online in 1966. Today, Japan is the largest supplier of turbines for geothermal power plants all around the world, with little movement on development at home. At the time of the Fukushima disaster, 17 plants were operating with 23 small-scale having been added since then. The favourable feed-in-tariff system installed was a clear driver in this.

Kasumi Yasukawa, deputy director of the Renewable Energy Research Center at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, describes the government’s target of up to 24% of electricity from renewable energy by 2030 with geothermal providing around 1,600 MW (an increase of around 1 GW from today).

“We support a more aggressive target of around 40 percent for renewables,” says Tatsuya Wakeyama, a senior research fellow at the Tokyo-based Renewable Energy Institute. “We think the target for geothermal is too low.” … describing 2,600 MW as a more realistic target.

In its article, the Japan Times, then goes into depth about the challenges faced by geothermal developers, among them the opposition by local Onsen operators, but also constraints such as grid connection. For more details see link below.

Source: Japan Times