Kansai Electric Power Co. has finished building Japan’s largest solar power plant, a 10,000-kilowatt facility in Osaka Prefecture capable of generating enough electricity to run about 3,000 households.
It has also started testing a system with a cluster of nickel hydrate batteries that can store and supply power in a stable manner, the company said Wednesday.
The cluster, set up in a transformer station near the solar facility in the waterfront area of Sakai, is capable of storing some 100 kwh.
Japan will develop and promote new clean energy technologies after the nuclear crisis, new foreign minister Koichiro Gemba says.
We have bullet trains and water. From now on, there will be environmental technology, said Gemba, signalling a shift away from nuclear power, a technology the country has previously exported.
The minister, whose constituency Fukushima is at the centre of the ongoing atomic crisis, said new developments would include state-of-the-art solar batteries, which could replace nuclear reactors in the future.
The number of Japan’s nuclear plants could dwindle to zero in the future, Japanese Industry Minister Yoshio Hachiro said.
Based on Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s policy of not building new nuclear power plants and decommissioning aged ones, "it would be zero," Hachiro told reporters when asked whether the number of nuclear plants in the country would be reduced.
Noda replaced Naoto Kan, who stepped down a week ago amid criticism over his handling of the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.
Noda has suggested Japan will eventually phase out nuclear power generation in the resource-poor nation, Asia’s second-largest economy.
Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe urged Japan’s new prime minister on Tuesday to halt plans to restart nuclear power plants and instead abandon nuclear energy.
Oe cautioned Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda against prioritizing the economy over safety. Noda has said he will allow idled nuclear plants to resume operation when their safety is confirmed.
"The new prime minister seems to think that nuclear power plants are necessary for Japan’s economy, and how to resume their operation is one of his key political agendas," Oe said. "We must make a big decision to abolish all nuclear plants."
The Japanese trading house, Marubeni Corp., is buying a 49.9% interest in the offshore U.K. wind-power project Gunfleet Sands.The deal, worth about $324 million, makes Marubeni the first Japanese company to take a stake in an offshore wind farm under commercial operation.
Japan is beginning a shift to solar energy that lacks one ingredient: bank financing.
For lenders like Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group Inc. (8316), a commitment to offer loans to solar ventures depends on a law to be passed today that will subsidize renewable energy, part of Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s initiative to cut Japan’s reliance on atomic energy after the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Trading houses Mitsui & Co. and Mitsubishi Corp., insurers Munich Re and Tokio Marine Holdings Inc. (8766), and billionaire Masayoshi Son are among those ready to invest in solar power. For their businesses to become viable, they need utilities to buy electricity generated by the sun, wind and geothermal heat at above-market prices, known as feed-in tariffs.
The half-century-old, oil-fueled power generators here had been idle for more than a year when, a day after the nuclear accident in March, orders came from Tokyo Electric Power headquarters to fire them up.
“They asked me how long it would take,” said Masatake Koseki, head of the Yokosuka plant, which is 40 miles south of Tokyo and run by Tokyo Electric. “The facilities are old, so I told them six months. But they said, ‘No, you must ready them by summer to prepare for an energy shortage.’
Now, at summer’s peak, Yokosuka’s two fuel-oil and two gas turbines are cranking out a total of 900,000 kilowatts of electricity a day — and an abundance of fumes.
Japan’s parliament is set to approve a landmark bill on renewable energy championed by Prime Minister Naoto Kan as a way to reduce the nation’s dependence on nuclear power following the worst nuclear plant accident in the country’s history, and which would break the monopoly of the 10 major utilities.
The final passage of the bill, which aims to bolster investment in renewable energy, is expected by the end of the month. Ironically, it paves the way for the highly unpopular Kan to step down.
Its main feature is a requirement that utilities purchase power from outside providers such as private companies or cooperatives under certain circumstances. This is seen as opening the door for much greater use of renewable energy, an area where Japan lags, accounting for just 9% of total supply.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD released an updated version of its Monthly Electricity Survey, which tracks trends in electricity production for countries and regions around the world. The data for Japan are stunning.According to the OECD, Japan produced more electricity in May 2011 than it did in May 2010, but did so with 34% LESS nuclear energy and 1% hydro. Japan produced 295% more electricity from renewable-energy resources – including geothermal, solar and wind power – in May 2011 than it produced with renewable energy in May 2010. Wow.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s proposal to split electricity monopolies into generation and distribution companies as part of his plan to wean Japan from nuclear energy may be opposed by utilities as the nation faces power shortages.Kan’s government last week announced its plan to diversify away from nuclear power after a public backlash following the Fukushima disaster, and shift to alternate sources gradually to avoid shortages and higher prices. The strategy will consider separating generation and distribution and encourage “various operators” to enter the electricity market, Kan said July 29.“Breaking up the electricity grid is a great idea in theory, but the power companies are against it and the chances of it actually happening are slim,” said Kenichi Hirano, general manager and strategist at Tachibana Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The debate will end at the discussion stage instead of translating into policy unless the government is willing to take on the utilities. The reaction in the market will be limited.”