Battered by March’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, Japan was much in the news this past week with announcements that highlighted how wind power can help rebuild the world’s number three economy. With a death toll of nearly 16,000 people and more than 4,600 still missing, the related disasters have caused Japan’s leaders to re-examine commitments to their nuclear industry while encouraging the increased use of wind energy and other renewables.
As politicians contemplated total rebuilding costs of hundreds of billions of euros, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that the nation has plans to build floating wind farm plants off the Fukushima coast where the nuclear accident, considered the worst since Chernobyl, occurred.
The Bloomberg report quoted an official saying the government will involve local industries and spend as much as €190 million on a wind energy pilot project of six 2-megawatt wind turbines.
“Floating wind power generation is still in the developing stage, so it is good to get Japanese companies involved,” Masanori Sato, Trade Ministry official in charge of promoting clean energy, was quoted as saying. “Offshore wind power is going to be important.”
The report added that, according to the Sankei newspaper, Japan plans to build as many as 80 floating wind turbines off Fukushima by 2020.
Also on Wednesday, Reuters reported that a panel of experts has concluded that Japan’s new feed-in-tariff energy law, aimed at promoting renewable energy, will need attractive pricing and revisions if it is to help wean the country from nuclear power.
Reuters noted the experts said that the law, which requires utilities to purchase wind energy, geothermal energy, solar power and other forms of renewable energy and allows them to pass excess costs on to consumers, would be more effective if Japan adopted clear, ambitious renewable energy targets that encourage investment.
Two days earlier, Greenpeace released a report saying that Japan can switch off all its nuclear plants permanently by 2012 while still achieving economic recovery and its CO2 reduction goals. The country could generate 43% of its electricity from renewable energy, the Greenpeace report says.
Greenpeace says the Advanced Energy [R]evolution report for Japan shows that the nation’s wind energy and solar energy generation capacity can be ramped up from the existing 3,500 MW to 47,200 MW by 2015 with the use of a feed-in tariff, by establishing one government agency for all construction permits in order to speed up planning and construction and by setting a binding renewable energy target.
The environmental organisation added that represents about 1,000 new wind turbines deployed per year, and an increase in the current annual solar photovoltaic market by a factor of five, supplying electricity for approximately 20 million households.
However, a separate report by the International Energy Agency published earlier this year, highlighted Japan’s lack of an integrated grid and electricity market. With the country’s current set up, a 19% share of renewables in the overall electricity supply could be achieved compared to 63% in Denmark and 48% in the Nordic market, the IEA said.
Chris Rose, www.ewea.org/