Japan’s big investment in energy storage

Less than a year ago, and a couple of months after the tsunami-fuelled nuclear crisis that engulfed the country, the Japanese government announced a three-year programme of subsidies for renewables-related technologies. Of this, reports The Lithium Review, around 20 billion Yen, or roughly USD$212 million or UK£140 million is being spent on stationary lithium-ion battery energy storage.

One of the key subsidies is to cover one-third of the cost of domestic systems and fuel adoption of energy storage at a household level. This is in addition to the attractive feed-in tariff (FIT) offered to home owners who want to sell any excess energy – from renewable sources like solar – to the grid.

Companies were not slow in taking the bait.

Panasonic currently offers systems that range from 4kW residential units, to full megawatt-scale power plants used to stabilise energy produced from solar and wind farms.

Kyocera has gone into partnership with Nichicon to produce a new domestic energy storage system, using Samsung’s SDI lithium cells. The two companies are hoping for first year sales of 10,000 units.

NEC, Orix and Epco Corp. have set their sights much higher. Their joint venture is aiming for 30,000-50,000 Japanese homes to adopt its residential energy storage system in the first year of sales, with 100,000 more homes every year after that.

Toshiba has also got involved – and is offering the 6.6kW eneGoon battery back up system, which integrates the company’s own SCiB cells.

If all this sounds familiar, that’s not surprising. Despite uncertainty over the future of its proposals, Germany has voiced a similar compromise to domestic subsidies and FITs.

And as in Germany, the commitment to energy storage makes a lot of sense. For example, Japan has a burgeoning domestic solar market. Not only that, but both Toshiba and Kandenko have announced investments in large solar plants only this week.

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