Sunset for Japan's big solar projects?

Post-Fukushima dreams of a renewable energy future could be turning into just that - dreams. Government may pull plug on photovoltaic farms. Not enough land, money.
Written by Mark Halper, Contributor


Solar Japan Tepco Sakaori Wiki.jpg
Diamond in the rough: The Mount Komekura plant is one Japanese solar farm that has come on line since the Fukushima tragedy, but many others are not even holes in the ground yet.

Japan's post-Fukushima dreams of a renewable energy future could be turning more into just that - dreams - as the government threatens to close down many of the country's delayed, large scale photovoltaic projects.

A number of groups that won approval to build solar farms after the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns have struggled to even begin construction, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported. Some of them are floundering in their efforts to secure not only funds but also land -- solar requires a lot more acreage per kilowatt than other energy sources like nuclear.

On top of that, builders are simply stalling in anticipation that the price of solar equipment will decline. 

You could say that the Three L's of land, loot and laggards has stalled solar. Whatever you call it, the government has had enough, and is now considering withdrawing licenses. Bloomberg reported:

"The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans hearings as early as March with developers of 672 solar ventures approved in fiscal 2012...Permits for the plants, totaling about 3 gigawatts in capacity, will be revoked if developers haven’t secured sites and equipment by the time of the hearings."

Such a move would undermine a post-Fukushima government goal of producing 25-to-35 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Bloomberg reported last October that many of the delayed project were "utility scale." 

Currently all of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors are closed, following the country's tragic tsunami that led to preventable meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi reators in March, 2011.

Nuclear had provided about 30 percent of the country's electricity. Without it, the country's economy and environment have suffered as it has imported expensive, CO2-emitting fossil fuels. It has also backed way off its CO2 reduction goals - nuclear is a low CO2 power source that emits no greenhouse gases while generating electricity and only small amounts over a plant's cradle-to-grave lifetime, from mining and construction through retirement.

The country is divided on whether to restart nuclear. Many citizens remain staunchly against it, others favor a return. Tokyo this month voted in a mayor who supports the pro-nuclear policies of the Japanese government elected in December, 2012, after the shutdowns.

Photo is from Sakaori via Wikimedia

Power to Japan:

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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