Okinawa Electric Plans Storage System for Solar Power

Okinawa Electric Power Co. will set up a battery storage system on Japan’s southernmost island to handle extra capacity generated by solar power projects.

The device is needed because the electricity grid on the island of Okinawa is expected to reach its maximum ability to accept solar energy, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said today in a statement. Applications to build solar farms with 300 kilowatts of capacity or bigger could reach 57 megawatts as early as this month, METI said.

The project -- and a similar effort on the northern island of Hokkaido -- underscores the strains placed on Japan’s power systems amid a government push to expand alternate energy supplies since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A 2-megawatt lead battery storage system will be set up in the fiscal year starting April 1 and will go through a trial process, Keisuke Murakami, a ministry official in charge of the project, said today at a news conference.

Besides Hokkaido and Okinawa, other areas in Japan aren’t expected to reach their limits for now, Murakami said.

Power grids in southern Japan are close to capacity for solar and wind projects as the country pushes to add stations that derive power from clean energy, Bloomberg New Energy Finance said in August.

Japan has approved 23.6 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity since an incentive program began in July 2012, according to the latest data from METI. BNEF estimated earlier this year that Japan has 34 gigawatts of grid availability for new solar and wind projects.

Reform of the power market could improve the country’s grid, the London-based researcher said in the report.