Thousands Protest Nuclear Power in Japan

Tens of thousands of people crowded into a park in central Tokyo on Monday to protest the use of nuclear power in Japan, highlighting the growing opposition to atomic energy in the country since the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

The peaceful demonstration took place on Japans national day in an area the size of a large sports field in Yoyogi Park, near the bustling shopping and nightlife district of Shibuya.

The event attracted so many people on a hot July public holiday that many spilled out into the surrounding streets, unable to enter the main area. It brought together a broad mix of Japanese people, from seasoned environmental activists to families who hadnt participated in a protest before.

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Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff Era Begins in Japan

The feed-in tariff system for renewable energies entered into force Sunday to help promote their use and cut Japan’s dependency on nuclear power.

The system requires utilities to purchase all electricity generated through solar, wind, water and geothermal power, among other eco-friendly sources, at fixed rates for up to 20 years. The costs will be passed onto consumers.

The government’s generous tariff rates have created considerable interest in the sector, with companies rushing to build massive solar and other power plants based on renewable energies.

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SoftBank-Kyocera Solar Plant Inaugurated in Kyoto

The largest mega-solar project in Kyoto Prefecture was inaugurated Sunday, the same day a feed-in tariff for renewable energies took effect and just hours before the Oi nuclear plant was set to resume operations.

The first of the project’s two solar power facilities, built in a joint venture between SoftBank group’s SB Energy Corp. and the Kyocera group, began operations later in the day. The second facility is scheduled to go online in September, and each is expected to generate 2.1 megawatts. When both are up and running, their combined capacity will be enough to power around 1,000 households, SB Energy said.

The ceremony took place in a downpour, prompting SoftBank Corp. President and CEO Masayoshi Son to note that the weather proves Japan needs a mix of renewable energy sources.

Read the rest of the story: SoftBank-Kyocera solar plant gets off to soggy start amid downpour in Kyoto.

Floating Windmills New Idea in Japan to Wind Down Nuclear

Japan is preparing to bolt turbines onto barges and build the world’s largest commercial power plant using floating windmills, tackling the engineering challenges of an unproven technology to cut its reliance on atomic energy.

Marubeni Corp. (8002), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) and Nippon Steel Corp. (5401) are among developers erecting a 16-megawatt pilot plant off the coast of Fukushima, site of the nuclear accident that pushed the government to pursue cleaner energy. The project may be expanded to 1,000 megawatts, the trade ministry said, bigger than any wind farm fixed to the seabed or on land.

“Japan is surrounded by deep oceans, and this poses challenges to offshore wind turbines that are attached to the bottom of the sea,” Senior Vice Environment Minister Katsuhiko Yokomitsu said at a meeting in Tokyo this month. “We are eager for floating offshore wind to become a viable technology.”

Read the rest of the story: Floating Windmills in Japan Help Wind Down Nuclear Power: Energy.

Japan’s Solar Frontier Lights CIGS over California Power Plant Deal

Japan’s Solar Frontier has made a big push into the U.S. market, landing a deal to supply 150 megawatts of advanced thin-film photovoltaic panels for installation in a California solar power plant to be built by enXco.

The agreement announced Monday is one of the largest deals for so-called CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) panels that various Silicon Valley startups have been seeking to commercialize for the past decade.

While CIGS panels are less efficient at converting sunlight into electricity than conventional silicon-based photovoltaic modules, their great promise, so far unrealized, is that they can be produced at a far lower cost.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s Solar Frontier Lands California Power Plant Deal.

Noda welcomes road map for new U.N. climate-talks framework

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda welcomed Sunday the outcome of just-ended U.N. climate talks, citing its adoption of a road map for launching a new framework in 2020 to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.

The 17th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change "could reap significant results such as a road map toward building a new legal framework in which all countries participate," Noda said in a released comment.

The newly endorsed measure is supported by major emitters China and the United States.

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Renewable energy sees its chance in Japan’s electricity market – The Washington Post

Two years ago, Japan’s second-largest city launched a small-scale environmental experiment, encouraging residents to install solar panels on their roofs and buy pricey equipment to track how much energy they use.Yokohama officials’ goal was simple: to save power and cut the city’s carbon emissions.

But since the nuclear disaster that transformed the way Japan thinks about both energy and the companies that supply it, Yokohama’s “smart city project” has taken on potentially larger significance. What began as a modest environmental plan now stands as a controversial blueprint for a system in which the country’s monopolistic utilities would lose their absolute control of the grid.

In Yokohama, the households with both solar panels and meters act as micro-size power companies, generating electricity, using what they want and in some cases selling the surplus back to the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Tepco. That model contrasts sharply with the one that has served Japan for decades, as 10 privately owned utility companies established regional fiefdoms, largely reliant on coastal nuclear plants and allowing little room for renewable-energy projects that would cut into profits.

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‘Smart cities’ to rise from Japan disaster

Plans to rebuild many areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake as environmentally friendly "smart cities" are being explored by corporations and municipal governments.

By promoting large-scale projects that include power-generation facilities utilising renewable energy and smart grids, the plans are also meant to create jobs. Some companies and local governments have already started working together on these projects.

Major electronics manufacturer Toshiba Corp has proposed an integrated system, with facilities ranging from power generation and water-treatment systems to "smart metre" next-generation power meters, to some local governments.

An official of the company’s smart community division said, "In the future, (we want) to export technologies created domestically."

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SoftBank founder outlines plan to shift Japan to renewable energy

Japans richest entrepreneur outlined a plan on Monday to rebuild the countrys energy infrastructure in the wake of its nuclear disaster, shifting the majority of supply to natural, renewable resources by 2030.

Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of SoftBank, was speaking at the launch of his Japan Renewable Energy Foundation. He said Japan could shift to renewable energy sources for 60% of its electricity requirements over the next two decades, calling for a 2 trillion yen £16.34 billion "super grid" across the country, and underwater off the coast, that would zip electricity around cheaply and efficiently to meet demand.

"Japan is a country that is riddled by earthquakes," Son said at a conference hall in central Tokyo. "We must minimise our use of nuclear power over the next 20 years."

Read the rest of the story: SoftBank founder backs Japans shift to renewable energy.