Japan spurs solar power and wind energy

Japan approved a bill to subsidize electricity from renewable sources, joining European nations in shifting away from nuclear power after the Fukushima reactor meltdowns in March.

Japan currently has a wind farm capacity of 2,410 MW and since the Japanese government ended subsidies for wind turbines last year, there are no planned installations.

The renewable energy bill was passed by the upper house following approval by the lower chamber on Aug. 23 and was one of the last acts of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, whose support has sagged over his handling of Japan’s worst post-war disaster. He resigned after parliament passed the legislation.

The bill allows for incentives that guarantee above-market rates for wind power, solar energy and geothermal energy. The so-called feed- in tariff created a race to install solar panels when implemented in Germany and Spain.

Japan gets about 9 percent of its electricity from low- carbon sources. Kan has called for that level to increase and for the country to phase out atomic energy after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima nuclear power plant. Before the crisis, nuclear energy supplied about 30 percent of the country’s electricity.

Solar power had the capacity to produce about 3.68 gigawatts of power at the end of last year in Japan, and the government is targeting 28 gigawatts by 2020.