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Published on June 22nd, 2012 | by Andrew

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Japanese Solar Boom? Toshiba Announces 100-MW Solar PV Plant Near Fukushima



Japanese electronics industry giants, power utilities and solar energy companies worldwide have been anticipating the introduction of a renewable energy Feed-in Tariff (FiT) that will subsidize the cost of developing solar, wind, marine, geothermal and other renewable energy resources by allowing providers to pass on costs to consumers. They weren’t disappointed, as the Japanese government’s FiT rates — due to go into effect in July — came in higher than expected, particularly in the case of solar.

Toshiba on Wednesday announced it will invest some 30 billion yen ($373.5 million) in building solar photovoltaic (PV) fields in Minami Soma near Fukushima, the disaster-stricken area on Japan’s northeastern coast. At a rated capacity of 100 MW, Toshiba’s solar PV project surpasses the 70-MW solar project announced by Kyocera, IHI Corp., and Mizuho Corporate Bank as the largest planned installation in the country.

 

One of the advantages of solar PV is that it’s modular, scalable nature. In stark contrast to centralized, mass-market coal, nuclear, and natural gas power plants, solar PV plants can be built and brought on-line incrementally, in stages. Toshiba expects to begin building its 100 MW this year, with first power coming on-line in 2014.

Japan to Retake 1st Place among Solar PV Markets?

The Japanese government recently announced a solar FiT of 42 yen (53 cents) per kWh that power utilities will pay from electricity generated by solar energy. Larger than expected, industry observers are saying the solar FiT will propel Japan past Italy and Germany as the world’s largest market for solar PV.

It’s estimated that Japan’s solar FiT will create a $9.6 billion market. The higher-than-expected solar FiT is intended to boost the amount of electricity produced by solar and other renewable energy resources enough to make up for the closure of Japan’s nuclear power plants, which have been shuttered since the Fukushima disaster.

Nuclear power had accounted for 21% of Japan’s electricity. Shutting the plants down has led to worries, at times fanned in the media, that power shortages were imminent. Japan’s turned to imported fossil fuels to make up the shortfall over the short-term, as well as strong energy efficiency efforts, but it’s looking to broaden and diversify its domestic energy base as quickly as possible to avoid the added costs — economic and environmental — of continued reliance on imported fossil fuels.

No doubt, nuclear and fossil fuel industry participants and advocates will fan public fears and pressure politicians to favor conventional energy resources, but Japan would do right by turning to solar and other clean, renewable energy resource development for long-term sustainability and energy security, as would every nation.

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.



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  • nullcodes

    So they turned to fossil fuels, which guarantee pollution, instead of nuclear which only is dangerous if there is a rare natural disaster. They should have stuck to nuclear fission and ramped up the alternatives such as solar, wind, and fusion instead of replacing it with fossil fuels.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That may be an easy opinion for someone who didn’t have a nuclear reactor melt down in their backyard.

      The Japanese people now realize how dangerous nuclear reactors are and they want to get that danger out of their lives.  Yes, that does mean that they’re using some more fossil fuels while they get their renewables installed.  But, like the Germans, they are dealing with what they view as the most immediate danger first.

      The Japanese people now realize that they were lied to by the nuclear industry and by complicit government officials who were supposed to be protecting them.  The people who designed and approved the Fukushima reactors knew that the reactors were not adequately protected against a large tsunami and that at least one large tsunami had occurred in the area previously.

      That must leave them wondering about how many other corners were cut to make reactors more profitable.

      I can fully understand their desire to avoid another $250+ billion disaster.

      “Fusion”?  They should be ramping up fusion?  How about combined cycle gas plants run on unicorn farts?

      • nullcodes

        Not even one person died of radiation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

        The nearby Cosmo oil refinery exploded, killing 6 people and spewed toxic gases into the atmosphere and the media didnt care. It did not even make it to the news. And what about the other deaths from the tsunami? Does anyone know how many people died from the actual tsunami .. that number is not even reported .. nobody cares about making other things safe from tsunamis.

        I suggest you take a careful look at this:

        http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/06/deaths-by-energy-source-in-forbes.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2Fadvancednano+%28nextbigfuture%29

        Coal murders 100 people for every Twh generated compare that with .04 for nuclear. Note, we are talking rate, not number .. if we got into number you’ll just end up feeling humiliated.

        As you can see by that URL (which you and I both know you wont bother to click on, let alone understand) nuclear by far is the safest form of energy .. safer than solar and safer than wind.

        The public has an irrational fear of nuclear power. If Fukushima was a 4 GW coal power plant .. we would have seen 100s of deaths there and it would not have even been reported.

        “As of March 2012, there had been no reported cases of Fukushima
        residents suffering ailments related to radiation exposure. Experts
        cautioned that insufficient data was available so far to make
        conclusions on the impact on residents’ health. Nevertheless, Michiaki
        Kai, professor of radiation protection at Oita University of Nursing and Health Sciences, stated, “If the current radiation dose estimates are correct, (cancer-related deaths) likely won’t increase.”

        I don’t think you know that hundreds (some years thousands) of people die every year mining coal. And that’s ignoring the people who get ill due to the pollutant by-products of burning coal. Did you know that a coal power plant releases more radiation that a nuclear power plant? Google it. The media doesn’t report anyone getting sick from coal pollutants, dying mining coal or in an explosion at the facility, but if a person sneezes at a nuclear power plant if becomes headline news.

        As for your comment about fusion .. fusion will be made to work. If fusion energy was not possible, how does the hydrogen bomb work? How long did it take from when they discovered the principles of aerodynamics till when the first airplane flew. Must have been funny to the people like you who were laughing at all the people trying to make airplanes work. Fusion energy will be a reality someday in spite of nay-sayers like you. Do you realize that people didn’t even know what the heck fusion itself was 80 years ag?

        • Akbweb2

           Energy industries’ unceasing deception and lies rightly creates a deep mistrust of any industry claims…and that’s solely on them…

        • Bob_Wallace

          Please, do not insult us with the “if not nuclear, then coal and oil” stuff.  

          The public does not have an irrational fear of nuclear.  The public can look at the wasted land and lives caused by Chernobyl and Fukushima.  And they can look at the ‘near misses’ of Three Mile Island, Davis-Bessie and others.  

          To be concerned about something that can blow up in your face is not irrational.  It’s sane.

          Fusion – when you can hook a hydrogen bomb up to the grid and generate electricity get back to us.

          I expect we’ll figure out fusion.  But we haven’t yet, so fusion is not an option to be considered.  We’ve got to solve the problem of clean, safe energy with the tools at hand.

          • nullcodes

            What about the wasted lives and land caused by coal power? That means nothing to you? What about all the deaths to roofers etc. caused by solar power?

            Nuclear power is easily the safest form of energy and has the lowest death rate.  I have the facts on my side, you have the paranoia on yours. Did you not bother to read the article I linked to?

          • Bob_Wallace

            We have no data to tell us how many people have been killed during the construction of nuclear plants. We do know that a number of people have been killed in nuclear plants during operation. Teasing out only the “radiation” deaths and comparing them to people falling off roofs is dishonest accounting.

            And coal is not the only option to nuclear power. Isn’t it time for you glow in the dark boys to drop that silly argument? People have largely caught on to that distortion.

          • Akbweb2

             Let’s see, you’re comparing the actual and potential deaths from  nuclear accidents to roofers installing solar PV systems???

            You’re kidding, right?

          • nullcodes

            You would need about 10 deaths at each nuclear powerplant construction site in the world for the death rate to approach that of solar. I dare you to find a report of a single western (or non western) nuclear power plant which has documented 5 or more people dying during construction. And you previously claimed Japan should go for fossil fuels over nuclear .. fossil fuels which have killed literally hundreds of times more people per terawatt than nuclear. And that’s including Chernobyl, which is unfair because Chernobyl had a primary purpose of cheaply producing plutonium for manufacturing nuclear warheads. No western power plant uses that design.

            FACT: Nuclear energy has killed much less people than solar energy.

            FACT 2: Nobody has died from radiation at Fukushima, in spite of the power plant being hit directly by 7 tsunami waves and an earthquake.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Yep, bring up coal again. That’s the big nuclear “bright and shiny” distraction.

            And yep, dismiss Chernobyl because it doesn’t fit your narrative.

            Now I’ve found no data for deaths during nuclear plant construction. The web wasn’t around back then. Perhaps there have been none, but that would be unexpected. Construction work is riskier than doing data entry.

            Solar deaths? How many have been during “professional” installations and how many from homeowners falling off their own roof? Current job regulations make it difficult to fall off a roof unless you are working outside the regs. Get up on a roof these days without a harness and/or guard rails and your insurance company will pull your policy.

            Fact: No solar array has melted down and killed anyone. No solar array has melted down and created an exclusion zone where humans can’t enter without special protective gear. No solar array requires squads of armed guards to keep terrorists at bay.

            Fact: Fukushima could have taken out Tokyo had things played out a bit differently.

          • Kjw

            Solar deaths? Now I’ve heard everything ….

        • Platypuscat

          First of all, I agree that we should use a lot of nuclear power for our energy base, though solar and wind and hydro should do everything they can.

          Secondly, please don’t antagonize someone so aggressively, and don’t claim that nuclear is definitely so safe when actually we don’t know what consequences Fukushima, for example, will eventually bring. You simply can’t know, and the scientific community is nowhere near unanimous in support of your position. I definitely think we should use nuclear in the U.S. (and Germany) where there probably won’t be earthquakes and I agree it’s much better than fossil fuels, but Japan is clearly not a safe place for nuclear technology, and much of the scientific community feels that things could have been much worse than they were at Fukushima. As the articles linked in this wikipedia page suggest, there are actually lots of potential deaths Fukushima likely caused, and we’ll probably find more problems over time. I’ve also heard there is evidence that there were spikes in various deaths in many affected areas after Fukushima, even as far in the U.S. I wouldn’t be so sure of things, and in the meantime, solar is a great substitute, as the Germans are finding.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disaster#Casualties

          • Bob_Wallace

            Should we use nuclear where security guards sleep on the job?

            How about where safety backup systems get shut off and no one notices for more than a year?

            How about places where there are frequent tornadoes which can easily tear down the grid and where the backup generation is kept in a non-hardened building?

            Or places where an engineer crawling around the reactor innards might set them on fire with a candle?

            Or where leaking pipes can eat almost all the way through the containment dome, only to be discovered by accident?

            Or where someone screws up the engineering and installs faulty equipment which results in excessive wear in the tubing that carries radioactive water through the virtually brand new equipment?

            Here’s the problem I have with nuclear. Reactors are designed, built and operated by humans. And some of us humans are “Homers”. Almost all of us have a Homer-moment from time to time.

            These systems are very complex. The nuclear industry has a long history of
            near misses, followed by promises to not let that problem occur again. But
            there’s no solution for the unknown unknowns that keep popping up from time
            to time.

            What if those explosives found on the grounds of the Swedish reactor had
            made their way inside the facility and been triggered? Don’t think we’ve
            engineered against terrorists blowing stuff up….

  • Stbcho

    Yen conversion is incorrect in article

    • RobS

      379 billion for 100mw, ai was worried the Japanese had fallen for a dodgy solar scam.

      • Akbweb2

         Should read $373 million, has been corrected…

    • Akbweb2

       Thx; should’ve checked the numbers…Cxn’s been made.

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