Thursday, July 24, 2014

Orix Announces "Small Geothermal" Initiative

Orix, a major Japanese leasing group, has announced that it plans to develop and own up to 15 small geothermal plants in Japan.  Each plant would have around 2MW of capacity (typically available 24 hours x 7 days).  This was reported in Nikkei Shimbun and Bloomberg on July 23, 2014.

Apparently the projects would take overall 2-3 years each to develop, much faster than larger geothermal plants that (in Japan) can take up to 10 years, if they get done at all.  Plants under 7.5MW apparently do not require environmental assessments which typically require 3 to 4 years.

Japan is said to be the #3 country in the world in terms of geothermal resources, with over 23GW of potential, but actual operating geothermal plants cumulate to only 500MW, according to Nikkei.  In constrast, the U.S. as 3.4GW of geothermal in operation, Philippines 1.9GW, Indonesia 1.3GW.  Even small countries such as New Zealand and Iceland generate more geothermal power than Japan.

Siting is notoriously difficult given Japanese concerns (well-founded or not) that geothermal power may damage hot spring water resources.  Of course, there is a history of depletion of resources in some older geothermal fields in other countries, but there appear to be mitigation strategies as well.

One benefit of smaller projects is that they are often designed as "hot spring geothermal" -- teaming with the owners of hot springs (in Japanese "onsen") and using the same near- or at-surface resources, coopting any opposition that would otherwise arise.  The challenge is that many hot springs (onsen) use resources that are not sufficiently hot for geothermal.  Of course, larger geothermal plants typically use steam; but these new, smaller plants often use "binary" generators that function with water, at temperatures as low as 60-70 degrees celsius.

Orix has a large "mega solar" development business, with ambitious goals, hundreds of megawatts of solar PV projects built or under construction in Japan, and it also is entering the retail electricity sale and other related sectors.

No comments:

Post a Comment