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10 firms plan to build one of Japan's largest geothermal plants


Ten companies including Idemitsu Kosan Co. and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. later this month will start a full-fledged study on a plan to build one of Japan's largest geothermal power plants, government officials said Friday.

The capacity of the plant in a national park in Fukushima Prefecture is estimated at 270,000 kilowatts, equivalent to about half the total capacity of existing geothermal power plants in Japan.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry plans to subsidize the study, the officials said.

A geothermal plant generates electricity by extracting the steam heated by high-temperature magma deep underground through winzes to rotate turbines. Geothermal power generation is more stable than wind or solar generation, which is vulnerable to weather changes.

Potential geothermal resources in Japan are estimated at 23.5 million kilowatts, the third-largest in the world, raising hopes that geothermal energy may help make up for the loss of nuclear energy after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster.

The companies involved in the project plan to examine an area of roughly 80 square kilometers around Mt. Bandai in a year.

Test drilling, environmental impact assessment and construction are expected to take some 10 years before the plant starts operation.