Geothermal Education Office

JAPAN - The best known example of a volcanic country on the Pacific "ring of fire," Japan has been volcanically active over the past 20 million years. The country has cold winters and little heating, so the hot bath has been a national ritual from early times, and for this reason Japan is the world's largest user of direct geothermal heat. Hot water use is enormous, exceeding 8730 GWh/yr for bathing, with an additional 1940 GWh/yr used for space heating, manufacturing, agriculture and aquaculture (including raising alligators). Use of geothermal for electricity is by comparison recent with the first production (22 MWe) starting in 1966 with a dry steam plant in Matsukawa. Japanese geothermal developments are often hemmed in by national parks and spas, so areas available for drilling and the fields themselves tend to be small (40 MWe average). By 1982 seven power plants of 10 to 55 MWe were operating, and now the total on line is 528.8 MWe. Additional power plants of 20 and 3 MWe are planned. A longer range goal is the use in small communities of mass produced 100 to 500 kW binary power plants to a projected total of 23.7 MWe.

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October 11, 1997
© 1997 Geothermal Education Office