From: Jon Major, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published September 15, 2014 08:41 AM

Japan: 'solar islands' replace nuclear power

As Japan seeks to end reliance on nuclear power, one of the answers is floating 'solar islands', writes Jon Major. A 70MW solar island opened last year, and two additional plants have just been announced.

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Two companies in Japan recently announced they are to begin building two large solar power islands that will float on reservoirs.

This follows smartphone maker Kyocera's Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar power plant, the country's largest at 70 megawatts, which opened in late 2013 and is found floating in the sea just off the coast of southern Japan.

The two new solar islands, to be built by Kyocera and commercial partners, will form a network of thirty 2MW stations - adding another 60MW of solar capacity.

The move comes as Japan looks to move on from the Fukushima disaster of 2011 and meet the energy needs of its 127m people without relying on nuclear power.

Shattered confidence in nuclear power

Before the incident around 30% of the country's power was generated from nuclear, with plans to push this to 40%. But Fukushima destroyed public confidence in nuclear power, and with earthquakes in regions containing reactors highly likely, Japan is now looking for alternatives.

Solar power is an obvious solution for relatively resource-poor nations. It is clean, cost-competitive, has no restrictions on where it can be used and has the capability to make up for the energy shortfall.

A small fact that solar researchers love to trot out is that enough sunlight falls on the earth's landmass around every 40 minutes to power the planet for a year. To put this another way, if we covered a fraction of the Sahara desert in solar panels we could power the world many times over.

The technology already exists, so producing enough solar power comes primarily down to one thing: space. For countries such as the USA with lots of sparsely populated land this is not an issue, and there have already been a large number of solar farms installed around the country.

For Japan, the answer is offshore

But Japan where space is limited, more inventive solutions are required. This is the principle reason behind the decision to move their solar power generation offshore.

While the land is highly congested, and therefore expensive, the sea is largely unused. It therefore makes a good degree of sense to use this space for floating power plants.

Continue reading at ENN affiliate The Ecologist.

Solar panel image via Shutterstock.

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