Photo/IllutrationKoriyama Mayor Masato Shinagawa and others connect a hose from a hydrogen station with a fuel-cell vehicle introduced for official use at the Koriyama city government office in Fukushima Prefecture. (Teru Okumura)

One of the world’s largest hydrogen production plants is planned for the town of Namie, part of efforts to build a hydrogen-based, eco-friendly society in disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture.

The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) announced its plan on Aug. 1, following the opening of the prefecture’s first hydrogen station on the site of the Koriyama city government office in June.

Although hydrogen is drawing increasing attention as a new type of energy to replace fossil fuels, hurdles remain, particularly over costs, for its widespread use.

But still, the green energy business is expected to help the prefecture recover from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami as well as the subsequent nuclear crisis.

NEDO’s planned plant is a core project intended to promote use of the gas and nurture relevant industries to establish a futuristic hydrogen society in Fukushima Prefecture. The plant will produce hydrogen using renewable energy, such solar and wind power.

One disadvantage of renewable energy is the difficulty in ensuring a stable electricity supply. The planned factory will attempt to get around this problem by converting electricity generated from renewable energy into hydrogen because the gas is easier to store and transport.

After Tohoku Electric Power Co. dropped its plan to build a nuclear plant in Namie, the construction site and the surrounding area were selected for the hydrogen factory.

Part of the site will be provided free of charge to the Namie municipal government.

While 4.5 hectares of the land will host the hydrogen plant, the remaining 35 hectares will be used to set up solar panels.

Hydrogen produced at the facility will be used primarily to supply power to fuel-cell vehicles, which run on motors operated by electricity generated by combining hydrogen and oxygen.

The facility will have a total capacity of 10 megawatts, enough to supply hydrogen to 10,000 fuel-cell vehicles.

Fuel-cell cars emit only water while in operation, and their energy efficiency is higher than that of gas-powered and other types of vehicles.

Toshiba Corp., Tohoku Electric and Iwatani Corp. were chosen in autumn last year as operators of the hydrogen facility. Its construction will start next summer, and experimental operations are expected to begin by 2020.


The Koriyama city government has introduced a fuel-cell vehicle for official use. The first hydrogen station for fuel-cell vehicles in Fukushima Prefecture opened in the parking lot of the city government office in June.

According to the city and other sources, the station in Koriyama was the third in northeastern Tohoku region, after two stations in Sendai.

Another hydrogen station will be installed in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. And a movable station is planned to provide hydrogen in the cities of Fukushima and Koriyama.

However, the use of fuel-cell vehicles has not spread sufficiently.

Although a central government subsidy is available, fuel-cell vehicles cost more than 7 million yen ($63,700) each, and there are few hydrogen stations.

According to Koriyama city, Japan had 1,500 registered fuel-cell vehicles as of the end of last year. The city government’s fuel-cell vehicle, in fact, was the first one to operate in Fukushima Prefecture.

Starting this fiscal year, the prefectural government started offering a subsidy to set up hydrogen stations. It also plans to begin a subsidy program targeting those who want to buy fuel-cell vehicles by the end of August at the earliest to contribute to realizing a hydrogen society.