Tokyo Electric upgrading grid with 100-km-long transmission line

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pv magazine has learned that Tokyo Electric Power Co., Ltd (Tepco), has begun construction of a new, 100-kilometer-long transmission line connecting the Nagano and Gifu prefectures in central Japan.

Tatsuhiro Yamagishi, communications officer at Tepco, confirmed the news, adding that Tepco aims to complete the project by 2020.

The new 200 kV electricity line “will be able to transfer from an original 600,000 kW to 1.5 million kW, a 900,000 kW increase,” Yamagishi said.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said that prior to construction, the project had won the approval of all government-related institutions, including approvals from Nagano and Gifu prefectures.

Meanwhile, METI added that another very shorter electricity line, about 1 kilometer, will also soon be constructed by Chubu Electric Power Co., Inc. This is a 500 kV line, also adding to the existing line infrastructure about 900 MW of extra power transfer.

The two projects are in line with a decision by the Japanese cabinet to update the country’s grid infrastructure and add flexibility to the power system. The Tepco and Chubu projects have received priority status.

Japan’s PV deployment surge

Japan is poised to top 8 GW solar installations this year, adding about 5.1 GW of PV in the second half of the year alone, according to a recent analysis by GlobalData.

The country’s PV deployment success stems mostly from residential as well as commercial and institutional projects of up to 1 MW each. However, the number of large-scale solar PV projects are also starting to increase significantly, GlobalData said.

A crucial change affecting large-scale PV projects appears to be in sight though. According to Reuters, which cites reports by Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper, METI is planning to change the timing for the calculation of the feed-in tariff (FIT) for PV installations larger than 1 MW.

Under the current support scheme, solar PV projects lock in a FIT at the time of approval by the government’s institutions. Under the new system METI is preparing, large-scale projects will only lock in a FIT when connecting to the grid, Reuters said.

The reason for this change is the huge delay often taking place between a project’s period of approval and deployment. Japan’s government tends to reduce FITs every business year, leading to many photovoltaic projects receiving a higher FIT at their time of connection than the one available for similar projects applying for approval at this time.

By introducing a change in the timing of FIT determination for large-scale projects, METI may limit the amount paid for FITs.

Long delays between licensing and construction of PV projects had also pushed METI earlier this year to annul many FIT-granted projects that had previously been found to have purposefully held back development in the hope that component costs would fall, according to GlobalData. METI has also introduced a clause stipulating that any project approved in 2014 must have a finalized site and equipment contract within 180 days.