Saturday, February 16, 2008

Wind update

The other day, Kawabe-san from Selco Home dropped by with Nemoto-san from Selco Head Office. Nemoto-san is well up on housing matters, and he happened to know that the evil utility Yonden (Shikoku Denryoku) doesn't purchase wind power. That is to say, Yonden doesn't allow privately generated wind power on its grid. If I want to try out a MotorWave turbine array, I'll have to use all the power generated, store it in batteries, or discharge it somehow.

Yonden runs sickly, greenwashing ads on TV, featuring its dangerous nuclear reactor in the middle of a lush natural scene, and its handful of poorly sited and managed wind turbines. Seeing these makes me want to puke, considering how resistant the company is to clean, reliable, distributed, democratic, sustainable power generation.

Matsuyama City is promoting solar generation since the area has a high ratio of sunny days. Recently they had a big double page spread on the Matsuyama Sunshine Project in the news bulletin that the city distributes. It was very vague and short on detail, and it didn't mention anything about the good wind resources in Matsuyama as a whole.

So I called the number given in the paper and spoke to the man there. I mentioned the problem with Yonden and suggested that this would be a problem for his plan. He mumbled that it might be. I mentioned that the low rates that Yonden pays for private generation compared with say, Germany, militated against his plan. He agreed, lamenting that Germany has a national plan for solar whereas Japan doesn't. I asked why private wind generation was ignored in Matsuyama's plan, and he waffled a bit about how Matsuyama's geography wasn't suited to big turbines. It took a while to get him to understand that people want to use wind privately too, and that indeed in Hojo you can see a several small turbines dotted about. He seemed unaware of the possibilities for small generation, and hadn't heard of MotorWave. I asked him to look into this aspect, and to consider expanding the project to include all renewables. I don't hold out much hope of seeing anything done.

For quite a while now, it's been apparent to me that what we need is an organization of solar panel owners, wind enthusiasts and anybody else who has grid-connected renewables. This would be a pressure group that would lobby local authorities and put pressure on the local power gen company (including through shareholding) to ensure the most favourable purchase rates and conditions. Local groups could then band together into a national body. It might well be in the interest of building companies to get involved too.

There seems to be a basic lack of understanding that the power gen companies are the enemy. Users of electricity are blamed and blame themselves for causing global warming by using electricity. But it isn't the users who generate the CO2 - it's the power companies that haven't foreseen the problem, and haven't done anything to prevent it. It's their responsibility. When private individuals are prepared to invest hard earned money in power generating facilities and get into the business of selling power, they should take a hard, nay a savage, look at their competitors and their practices. In this case of course, our competitors are the power utilities. We private generators need to band together to increase our clout.

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