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The following news summaries are by Jeff Durbin. They are based mainly on information taken from The Asahi Evening News (AEN), The Daily Yomiuri (DY), and The Japan Times (JT).


Wind power incentives boost industry - December 1, 1995

The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization is subsidizing wind power projects of non-power companies. A recent wind power symposium in Tokyo showed markedly greater interest by companies, with many products on display. Traditionally, power companies have opposed wind power projects, and the government has provided little support. (AEN 1 Dec)

Okinawa Electric may use wind power - February 18, 1996

After tests in which wind power generated electricity for 12 yen per kilowatt hour, Okinawa Electric Power Co. may replace diesel generators on remote islands in the prefecture. The cost of diesel power is 40 yen per kilowatt hour. (JT 18 Feb)

Solar vending machines get go-ahead - March 4, 1996

The government announced it will introduce solar-powered batteries for supplemental power in 10% of the nation's soft drink vending machines by 2003. The Environment Agency wants to promote solar cells and bring down production costs, and will perform tests this year before beginning installation in April 1997. The second motivation for the plan is to decrease emissions of carbon dioxide that contribute toward global warming. A single vending machine consumes more than twice the power of an average household. An Agency panel estimated that 193,000 solar vending machines will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 3300 tons per year. Battery and vending machine companies will participate in this year's experiments by providing parts and funds. (DY 27 Feb; JT 4 Mar)

Hokkaido wind power company open for business - March 10, 1996

Two wind power generators with a total capacity of 400 kilowatts will be built in northern Hokkaido by the Yamagata Wind Power Institute, Japan's first independent wind power company. With an average wind velocity of 23 kph, the generators will be able to produce electricity at a cost of 9.5 yen per kilowatt hour, which is competitive with other sources of energy. The generators were imported from Denmark. The company plans to build an additional 10 units in Japan during the next fiscal year. Ecology Corp. of Tokyo is the main investor in the project. (JT 10 Mar)

Clean-energy hobbyists lead the way - May 24, 1996

Solar and wind power, as well as "biogas," are being tried out around Japan, but represent only a negligible fraction of the nation's electricity supply. Companies that deal in alternative energy equipment are seeing more inquiries and sales. Windmills for home use sell for 100,000 yen, and small solar panels cost as little as 60,000 yen. A Chiba Prefecture man says, "producing energy from sunlight is a lot more fun than playing golf." Farmers are interested in biogas power from methane-containing animal waste. Overall, solar and wind power facilities add up to 4500 kilowatts, about .5% of an average nuclear plant's output. (AEN 13/24 May)

Yakushima Island testing electric vehicles - June 15, 1996

Trial electric vehicles on Yakushima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, a U.N. World Heritage site, have performed well enough to win recommendation from the island government for use as buses and rental vehicles. With only 100 kilometers of roads and expensive gasoline, Yakushima is a good fit for electric vehicles. Bus tours and tourists are multiplying, and officials fear pollution damage to Yakushima's virgin forests, which contain cedar trees over a thousand years old. Now, electric cars cost about 3 times the average car. Japanese automakers, however, are learning to make better batteries and cheaper cars as they enter California's electric car market. To solve its air quality crisis, California, though it has backed down from its original mandate under pressure from auto and oil companies, will go ahead with a pilot program for selling electric vehicles starting in 2000. (DY 15 June; JT 9 June)

Lawsuit filed over floating oil storage - June 29, 1996

A citizen's group in Fukuoka Prefecture has filed suit to stop construction of a floating oil storage site near Kitakyushu city. The base, operated by the Japan National Oil Corp., will be able to hold 4.8 million kiloliters of crude oil, a week's supply for the nation. The group contends that the proposed site off the Shiroshima coast in the Sea of Hibiki has strong waves, making it dangerous for tankers to reach without mishap. Guidelines by the Transport Ministry say that floating storage tanks must be in protected waters. Japan National Oil says it has already received permission from the Fire Defense Agency and other authorities. The corporation has already built 9 storage bases in Japan. (JT 29 June)

Electric car companies ready for sales - September 3, 1996

U.S. and Japanese carmakers, including Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Mazda are developing a new generation of electric cars to take advantage of California's new emissions law. The law stipulates that by 2003 at least 10 percent of vehicles sold must be zero-emission; intermediate steps begin in 1998. The cars will sell in Japan, but for now California and other U.S. states are the primary targets. In January, General Motors debuted the EV1, priced at 4 million yen (36,000 U.S. dollars). Newly introduced cars have been forced to compete with this price. Toyota's new model sells at 4.95 million yen, and next spring Nissan's Prairie Joy EV and the Honda EV will go on sale. Electric car batteries have evolved from lead-acid to nickel-metal and lithium-ion. The latter two types can double a car's maximum distance on one charge; cars can now go 130 kph and 200 km. In Japan, there were 2300 electric cars in use in fiscal 1994; the government subsidizes the cost of switching from gasoline vehicles. Nineteen eco-stations for charging electric vehicle batteries have been built around the country so far. Odawara City in Kanagawa Prefecture is being considered as a model city for zero-emission vehicles. (JT 28 Aug; 3 Sep)

Hydrogen vehicle developed by Toyota - October 6, 1996

Toyota Motor Co. has announced a fuel cell electric vehicle that is powered by a hydrogen and oxygen reaction. The hydrogen is split into positive and negative charges to provide the power; the emissions are water vapor. The cell can be filled with hydrogen in only 20 minutes, and the company is working to shorten this time to 3 to 5 minutes. One hydrogen charge can take the vehicle 250 kilometers, and its top speed is over 100 kph. Daimler-Benz in Germany came out with a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle earlier this year, but Toyota says its own fuel cell is far more compact, thanks to a new hydrogen-absorbing alloy. (DY 6 Oct)

Electromagnetic fields worry Kobe residents - November 3, 1996

Six thousand people in Arise district in Kobe have signed a petition to stop construction of an electric transfer station in their neighborhood. The residents fear the effects of electromagnetic emissions, though Kansai Electric Power officials say they will not exceed 10 milligauss. Construction of the transfer station was suspended in October, and the Kobe city government is considering the petition. Scientists disagree about acceptable levels of electromagnetic fields, and studies so far have not given consistent results. A comprehensive study by the World Health Organization is expected to provide more answers, but is not due out until 2000. (JT 3 Nov)

Government to study whether electromagnetic radiation hertz - January 11, 1997

The Labor Ministry announced it will study the effects of low-frequency electromagnetic waves on humans. The public is becoming more concerned about health risks, especially to women and fetuses. Protective aprons are now a big seller, worker's compensation claims blamed on electromagnetic waves are increasing, and cellular phone companies are finding it harder to build relay stations near residential areas. The study will consider waves under 300 hertz, and take three years. To date, study results have been somewhat contradictory, but the World Health Organization is now in the midst of a comprehensive 5-year study. (DY 11 Jan)


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