Japan is emerging as a hot-spot for energy storage projects, as utilities and technology companies look to battery-based solutions in response to the surge in solar PV installations.
Two new battery storage projects have been announced in the past week, with Toshiba to install a 20MWh/40MW lithium-ion battery project in Tohuku, and the island of Okinawa announcing a 2MW battery storage project on Tuesday.
Japan is expected to be the largest market for solar PV installations in 2013, with around 9GW to be installed following the introduction of feed in tariffs last year in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
This year, the Japanese government launched a $300 million grant program to support the installation of large scae battery systems to help integrate renewables into the grid.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that that the Toshiba system announced on November 26 will provide frequency regulation and operating reserves for Tohoku Electric. It is due to be commissioned in February next year.
On Okinawa, the country’s southern-most island, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced a 2MW lead battery storage system to respond to up to 57MW of solar farms of 300kW or more that are expected to be in place by the end of the year.
The ministry says this is reaching capacity for the island and new systems may not be able to be installed without storage. The 2MW system may increase the renewable capacity by around 10 per cent. The pilot project will be combined with another study into grid management.
Earlier this year, the northern island of Hokkaido also announced a 60MWh/15MW redox flow battery storage project would be built by Sumitomo because of the large amount of solar PV systems being installed.
Hokkaido Electric has received applications for 1.6GW of solar PV projects of 2MW or more, thanks to its large amounts of available land, but the utility estimates it can only cope with 400MW of that. It has only one 600MW inteconnecter with neighbouring Tohuku Electric.
Japan intends to reform its regional grid system and electricity market in the next few years to facilitate the introduction of more distributed energy. Currently 10 regional utilities are responsible for different sections of the grid and have a monopoly in each region for generation, transmission and distribution, and legislation is being introduced to loosen the control of the vertically-integrated utilities.