In the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, following an earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region, Japan has been carefully considering its energy options for the future. The use of nuclear power began here in 1970, and when I arrived in Japan in 1992 nuclear power production was responsible for almost a quarter of the country’s overall power supply.
After some of its nuclear reactors were damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the government had a rethink and Japan’s last nuclear reactor was shut down in early May 2012. However, Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture restarted two of its reactors in July, only to see them shut down again in 2013, leaving Japan without any nuclear power for the third time since its inception in 1970.
In the absence of nuclear power, the Japanese government has been scrambling to find sufficient energy resources to power the nation. Like many other nations, Japan utilizes coal, oil, natural gas and hydro power sources for its energy use, but recently it has also turned to wind farms and solar energy as alternative resources for power.
In the case of Kyocera, their 23 MW solar energy farm will generate over 25,000 megawatt hours annually, enough to power over 8,000 regular homes in the surrounding area. It goes live in 2017 apparently. The company is also building another 92 MW solar plant in Kagoshima prefecture that will power approximately 30,000 typical homes. See the link below:
At this point in time, Japan’s main renewable energy source is hydroelectricity with over 1,200 hydropower plants in service. Japan is a country with a lot of geothermal activity, and is also doing its best to harness that energy as well. As of 2011, it had 18 geothermal plants in operation. Another source of energy the government is planning to use is that of the ocean, announcing tidal power and wave power plants, although these are still experimental at this stage. Japan is also very much into recycling, and that includes using biomass fuel to produce energy.
It is inevitable that world oil supplies will eventually run dry, and we can’t keep burning coal forever, so it is inspiring to see more and more governments around the world turn their attention to clean and renewable forms of energy for the future. We simply must find more natural ways within our environment to supply ‘power to the people’. As an avid golfer though, I hope that in the process of building solar energy farms Japan leaves enough golf courses behind on which to play. After all, in addition to requiring electricity for our homes (and future cars?), we also need exercise for our bodies. It seems to me that walking and playing on a golf course, surrounded by nature, is a pretty good way to keep fit. Have a great week!