If things go according to plan, the $203 million that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is investing in a device developed by Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd. just might become one of Japan’s saving graces. The experiment on the battery will see if it can enable Hokkaido Island’s utility to store excess solar and wind power which can then flow in a stabilized manner to consumers. The installation is set to be finished by March 2015.
The battery aims to transform the way electricity is stored and supplied. Keisuke Murakami, a trade ministry official in charge of the project, said that this is great timing to be able to transform this experiment in Hokkaido to commercial use which can be sold to Europe and the US. It is just appropriate as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic reforms plan is in full swing and exporting Japanese technology is one thing that the administration has been working towards these past few months.
Hokkaido was chosen as the experimental venue because it is separate from the mainland’s electricity network and it has a lot of open land that is ideal for solar panels and wind turbines. The battery uses metal vanadium to be able to store electricity in its electrolyte tanks and can potentially handle the large power surpluses found on transmission grids. Some of the investors in this project are Sharp Corp and Softbank Corp., who have long tried to build solar projects that can handle four times the capacity of the Hokkaido grid.
The previous administration, and now Abe’s term, have been working on energy storage to modernize the grid, but problems like overheating of battery systems and cost problems, but the vanadium redox flow technology developed by Sumitomo will hopefully solve some of those issues. The battery, which has a 60 megawatt-hours capacity, will be installed at Hokkaido Electric’s Minami Hayakita substation in the town of Abira.
[ via Bloomberg ]