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Japanese Solar Industry Soaring

In the space of two days at the end of May three separate reports were released covering the soaring growth of Japan’s solar industry. Not only can solar replace nuclear power in Japan, but it is also set to become the world’s largest solar revenue market in 2013, thanks at least in part to a surge in installations in Q1.

Japanese solar power plant

Japanese solar power plant

Replacing Nuclear

In the wake of the tragic Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March of 2011 there was renewed public and political support for weaning the country off nuclear power altogether. Currently 27% of Japan’s electricity demand is met by nuclear power, but according to a new report by researchers at the University of Texas, Tokyo could use solar photovoltaic (PV) generation as a “baseload” power.

According to the report, “Potential for rooftop photovoltaics in Tokyo to replace nuclear capacity”, 300 square kilometres of suitable rooftop space in Tokyo could support 43.1 GW of PV to offset the demand currently filled by nuclear, alongside an existing 7.28 GW of pumped hydro storage available.

Strong Q1

Replacing nuclear isn’t just a researchers pipe dream, either, given what we’ve seen in the first quarter of 2013. According to information and analytics provider IHS Inc., a total of 1.5 GW of PV capacity was installed in the first quarter of 2013 in Japan, and that growth is expected to continue through the rest of the year.

That 1.5 GW translates to a growth of 270%, according to the report “The Photovoltaic Market in Japan” — a level of growth that IHS Inc believe sets Japan up to overtake Germany as the world’s largest photovoltaics market in terms of revenue this year.

“Following the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 that led to the shutdown of nuclear facilities and a shortage of electricity, Japan has aggressively moved to promote solar energy,” said Sam Wilkinson, solar research manager at IHS. “Japan’s government has introduced a highly attractive feed-in tariff (FIT) to help stimulate solar growth. In contrast, the European market that historically has led global solar demand is slowing as regional market conditions become less attractive. The deceleration in Europe and the implementation of the FIT in Japan are combining to propel the country to the top of the global solar market this year.”

The reality is that high prices in Japan are helping them earn this top ‘revenue’ spot, but nevertheless their growth is undeniable.

“High system prices in Japan have always resulted in the country accounting for a significant proportion of PV system revenues,” Wilkinson said. “Now these high prices are making Japan the world’s No. 1 market—and attracting the attention of global suppliers in the process.”

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