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.
Bulldozers clearing mountains of wreckage and rubble have been a common sight in Japans Tohoku region. But one restoration project in Miyagi prefecture is taking a more sensitive approach to the tsunami-devastated landscapes, going as far as clearing debris by hand, planting organic rice and choosing native flowers to beautify the area.
“We even pulled a car out of a paddy field just by human power,” says Tsubasa Iwabuchi, of Tohoku University, who is leading the Tohoku “Green Renaissance Project” on Sadasawa Jima, part of the Urato Islands in Shiogama Bay.
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.
Scientists in Japan have begun studying the “language” of oysters in an effort to find out what they are saying about their environment.
Researchers are monitoring the opening and closing of the molluscs in response to changes in seawater, such as reduced oxygen or red tide, a suffocating algal bloom, that can lead to mass die-offs.
Using a device they have nicknamed the “kai-lingual”, a play on the Japanese word “kai” or shellfish, scientists from Kagawa University want to see if they can decode oyster movements that might warn of possible problems.
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.
After a long, hot and dark summer in Japan, the days are cooler and the nights are brighter. For this the Japanese can give thanks not just to September, but also to setsuden, or “energy saving,” an ambitious and strikingly successful campaign to conserve electricity after the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear-plant disasters.
The destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi plant led Japan to shut down all but 15 of its 54 nuclear reactors. This was a huge blow to a country that depends heavily on nuclear power and has made scant investments in renewable energy. As summer approached, the only way to avoid a national energy emergency was through drastic conservation. And so the Japanese powered down.
The government required big power users to reduce peak consumption by 15 percent. Utilities pleaded with consumers to pitch in. Industries, offices and private households turned lights off and thermostats up, above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Office workers traded suits and ties for kariyushi shirts, the Okinawan version of aloha wear. They moved their shifts to early mornings and weekends, climbed the stairs and worked by the dim glow of computer screens and LED lamps. Families stopped doing laundry every day; department stores and subway stations turned off the air-conditioning. Posters of happy cartoon light bulbs urged everybody to pitch in.
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."
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."
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.