Japan Considers Solar Power In Light of Nuclear Crisis

Japan’s government indicated that it will be scratching an earlier plan to boost nuclear power, and replacing it with new renewable energy goals that perhaps focus on solar power, according to reports. Speculations abound over how Japan will manage to revamp its energy infrastructure after Fukushima, in light of the undeniable risks of nuclear power.

The nuclear crisis at Japan’s Fukushima power plant, where an earthquake and tsunami led to catastrophic release of radioactive material, has raised questions around the globe about the safety of such power generation. All are facing the same question: How can we transition out of the nuclear age and towards an era of safe, renewable energy?

Goldman Sachs estimated that the solar panels Japan would need would cost at least $150 billion. It’s a difficult and expensive decision for the disaster-stricken country, but it is essential for a future free of nuclear energy risks.

Japan’s original plan was to build nine more nuclear plants by 2020, producing 108 gigawatts of electricity. Replacing all that power generation with solar panels would be a cost-heavy goal, but it would encourage solar technology development.

Meanwhile, Solar Frontier recently opened their Kunitomi factory in Miyazaki, Japan. It is claimed to be the largest thin-film solar cell plant in the world.

The factory will start with raw materials and fully produce finished modules on a grand scale. The factory is considered state-of-the-art because it combines high capacity with automated processes and is bolstered by continued developing research. Its level of efficiency and scale is unprecedented and it offers hope for Japan as the nation reels from the worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl.

“The opening of our factory in the world’s largest class signals great promise for Solar Frontier and this confirms our next generation thin-film technology as globally competitive. I hope this can be one of the bright rays of hope as Japan recovers from the devastation of the Great East Japan Earthquake,” said Shigeya Kato, Chairman, at the opening ceremony of the new factory, according to the company’s website.

Japan’s government is strategically planning the logistics of their switch to renewable energy.

A group of Diet members (Japan’s Congress) calling itself Energy Shift Japan, had its first meeting on April 26 to discuss reinvention of the country’s energy policy. According to Hiroyuki Arai, a New Renaissance party member in the Upper House, the discussion should bring in drastic changes.

“We need a remake, including a switch in direction, rather than a ‘review’ of the country’s nuclear power policy and administration of energy measures,” he said, as reported by Japanese news source Asahi Shimbun.

The members of the group all agree that Japan must turn to renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, as well as assess lifestyle changes and risks of nuclear energy.

But a transition to solar energy is not just a necessary in Japan. The rest of the world is eager to jump onto the solar bandwagon as it becomes clear that a nuclear-powered world holds frightening risks.

On April 26, 2011, the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, protestors took to the streets across Europe to denounce the nuclear age. They held banners and yelled statements like “Chernobyl, Fukushima, never again!”

Germany’s Biblis nuclear plant was temporarily shut down as part of the government’s temporary and partial halt of nuclear energy production since the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But around 10,000 protestors showed up to demand the plant’s permanent shutdown.

There is hope in sight for this desired future, especially with signs that the solar industry is truly burgeoning. Solar companies are expanding their presence and developing their technology, no doubt assisted by changing global attitudes about the need for safe and clean energy.

Photo Credit: blogs.worldwatch.org

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