GE Says Japan Has More Potential to Harness Wind Power

General Electric Co. (GE) considers Japan ripe for new investment in wind power as the resource-poor country diversifies energy supply in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost three years ago.

To that end, GE has developed a 2.85-megawatt turbine for Japan that can withstand conditions unique to the Asian country. It can survive typhoon-strength winds, turbulent conditions and lighting strikes common in the nation.

“As you look at Japan and how we think about the energy mix in Japan, overall energy diversity is key,” Anne McEntee, chief executive officer of renewable energy at GE Power & Water, said at a conference yesterday in Tokyo where she outlined the Fairfield, Connecticut-based company’s approach to Japan.

While Japan is burning more coal and natural gas to make up for nuclear power shut down after the disaster at Fukushima, McEntee said there’s more potential to develop clean energy.

“We see an opportunity, and that opportunity is in renewables” that require no fuels and cause no carbon dioxide emissions, she said.

GE and its rivals are pushing Japan to stimulate the wind industry, which has received little new investment even though incentives for the technology were introduced in July 2012. Solar power by contrast has boomed.

GE has the second-largest share of the Japanese market in terms of cumulative installed wind capacity after Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWS), a Danish turbine maker, according to the Japan Wind Power Association. Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011) Ltd., which announced an offshore wind venture with Vestas in September, ranks third.

Wind Supply

Solar accounted for 97 percent of added renewable capacity since Japan’s incentive program began. Wind supplied 1.1 percent, according to data from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry released on Feb. 21.

Wind development is being held up by requirements to conduct environmental impact assessments, Tetsuro Nagata, president of the wind association, said in an interview earlier this year. The requirement took effect three months after the incentive program’s beginning.

Japan lags countries such as China and the U.S. in wind installations. Japan had 34 times less wind generation capacity than China at the end of 2013, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

“The environmental assessment is long at three years, and there is a lack of feasible sites,” Takehiro Kawahara, an analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said by e-mail. “Grid constraints also present a significant barrier, both in terms of available capacity in wind rich resource areas and a lack of good information on grid availability.”

The JWPA estimates Japan has potential resources of 144 gigawatts for onshore wind and 608 gigawatts for offshore wind. The nation currently has 2.7 gigawatts of total wind capacity, according to the group’s estimates.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chisaki Watanabe in Tokyo at cwatanabe5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at landberg@bloomberg.net

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