Every cloud has a silver lining, every disaster an opportunity. The devastation in parts of Japan as a result of the earthquake and tsunami six months ago is now ushering in a new age of renewable energy.
PhysOrg reported this last week on three new renewable energy initiatives in Japan. One initiative will rebuild stricken areas and include installing smart grids and big solar installations. Homes and businesses will be fitted with “smart meters” and power generated in one area will be transported from Hitachi’s Ibaraki Prefecture factory to “evacuation centers by buses equipped with storage batteries in the event of a disaster.” A major solar plant is planned for vacant land damaged in the earthquake. Other initiatives being pursued are building a smart city with solar installations and large scale energy storage, and building solar power plants to run food processing plants.
The second initiative is building a floating wind farm near the Fukushima nuclear plant that was devastated in the earthquake and resulting tsunami. Six floating wind turbines capable of generating 12 MW of power all together are expected to be built and online by 2015 at a cost of 20 billion yen ($261 million). The government expects opposition from local fishermen whose incomes have suffered from the twin disasters. Since there is still some fear of ongoing radiation leaks into the sea, wind turbines are a better fit than fishing. Also Japan is trying to move away from nuclear energy as a large portion of its energy base and towards a greater percentage of renewable energy.
The final initiative has been started by the wealthiest businessman in Japan. Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of Softbank, one of Japan’s largest Internet conglomerates is starting the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation (JREF). He has pledged one billion yen of his own to get the foundation started. Besides solar and wind installations, that he plans, he also wants to see geothermal installations. He is looking for other investors from the government and other businesses to join him in raising the two trillion yen per year that will be required. He ultimately wants to see renewable energy providing 60 percent of the nations energy replacing the almost 30 percent currently provided by nuclear installations with plenty of energy to spare.
These three proposals would move Japan away from its reliance on nuclear energy toward safer and more stable renewable energy installations. Most of the solar and wind installations are planned for industrial parks with land to spare, spent farmland lying empty, and the ocean. Every disaster provides an opportunity. Too bad it took an earthquake and tsunami to move Japan in this direction.