Sunday, March 6, 2016

A visit to World Smart Energy Week in Tokyo

Friday afternoon I visited World Smart Energy Week at the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition hall.  As in past recent years it is a huge event with hundreds (thousands?) of exhibition booths, and features solar, wind, biomass, fuel cells, battery technology, as well as an "energy market liberalization" exhibitions.  My impressions from a few hours spent greeting former business partners and walking the halls.

1.  Solar has not gone away in Japan.  In 2015, Japan continued to be the #2 market for solar PV in the world, and I recently saw a prediction for another 8GW of new installations in 2016, retaining at least the #3 position.  There is even SOME new greenfield development going on despite the difficulties of obtaining interconnection and the risk of curtailment.  And the solar exhibition remains by far the largest and most well attended, with a mood even on the last afternoon of the exhibition not at all glum.
The Kyocera exhibit had a feature on "floating solar" power plants which focused on the 1.7MW "nishi-ike" project in Takaoka that we developed for them, as well as trumpeting their 13MW project now underway. 
 2.  Solar PV technology just gets better and better, incrementally.  What would have been a 245 or 250 watt module back in 2011, is now a 300 watt module.  What would have been a 280 watt 72-cell module is now a 330 or 340 watt module, and it can be available as a bi-facial product so have actual output closer to that of a 400 watt mono-facial equivalent.  There are a wide range of approaches -- Sunpower high efficiency modules, PERC modules, 5-busbar models (instead of the old 3-busbar).  The First Solar "Tetrasun" module having 18~18.3% module efficiency is now on sale.  Solo Power Japan is actually selling its flexible, light weight CIGS modules that were barely out of the lab (and having trouble being commercialized) in 2013.
DSM, a Netherlands-based speciality chemical company, makes coatings and films for module.
All these things add up to a huge increase in output for the same project.
A Solo Power module -- rollable and this one weighs 2.1kgs - 90 watts ... can be glued onto a rooftop.

Solarworld bi-facial module. 72 cell 320 watt, but up to 400 watts production possible including reverse side, at a high albedo groundcover location.
3.  Microinverter manufacturers have been trying to get into Japan for years, without success.  But at PV Japan I met one company, NEP, that is actually selling its product in Japan. They told me that they are approved for use in the utilities, and their product is going onto a 315kWp floating solar project in Fukuoka that will be done this month.  This is a perfect solution to the issue of "where do we put the inverter" that inevitably comes up with floating solar projects in Japan -- the local authorities resist strongly any heavy equipment being located on the levy surrounding the pond.

4.  Floating offshore wind experiments continue.  The Fukushima national demonstration project is now nearing its next phase, with several different designs of floating offshore wind to be tested (including the Principle Power design as implemented by Mitsui Zosen).  It will not happen overnight, it it is great to imagine a future in 15 or 20 years when Japan could get massive electricity from a flotilla of offshore wind farms.
Nobody home at the USA Pavilion's Principle Power booth.
Maybe they are over at the Fukushima offshore wind project displays?
5.  Fuel Cells.  The hydrogen car is for real.   The Honda Clarity FCV will be available for sale from next week, joining Toyotas Mirai.  Nissan will follow soon.  Almost 75 hydrogen filling stations are in operation in Japan, with many more to follow.  The combined heat and power Enefarm home fuel cells are slowly getting better.  Lots of companies were exhibiting in this area. Kawasaki Heavy Industries had a nice pamphlet outlining all their activities related to this new business opportunity.

East Japan hydrogen fueling stations.
West Japan hydrogen fueling stations

6. Basic energy conservation gets featured at WSEW in the Eco House and Eco Buildings exhibition.  Glass wool insulation!  Better reflective/insulating paint coatings!  Some nice exhibits of companies taking the low cost way to lower CO2 output.

7. Electricity competition.  There were lots of exhibits by competitive suppliers and providers of monitoring, price comparison tools and a myriad of other things needed in a competitive retail market.  For the first time ever, I saw a TEPCO presence at one of these events, as TEPCO compares for competition in its own region and others.

New logo!  New TEPCO?  Lots of reasons to think so, actually.
Kinki Electric Power .... not to be confused with Kansai Electric Power.
Skipping Stone (consultants) were there as well.  

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