The shining light that was once Japan’s renewable energy industry is beginning to dim as reality sets in and it faces competition from a rejuvenated nuclear power industry.
The green energy industry was buoyed by the nation’s distrust and fear of nuclear power triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
According to a February nationwide survey by the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, 34 of the 79 solar energy producers who responded said they had given up on at least one solar power project. Roughly 45 percent of those respondents cited difficulties in land procurement, followed by 25 percent who said they had problems joining the power grid.
One such project in Hokkaido, located near the New Chitose Airport, called for a 100-hectare solar power generation facility. The site adjacent to the Abiragawa river remains covered in weeds to this day.
“We call it an April 17 crisis,” said Hiroaki Fujii, the 43-year-old executive vice president at SB Energy Corp., a Tokyo-based company that designed the plans.
On that date this year, Hokkaido Electric Power Co. said it would only purchase a total of 400 megawatts of electricity as part of the feed-in tariff system from the so-called mega-solar power plants, each with a generation capacity of 2 megawatts or more. That amounts to turning down as many as 70 percent of the 87 applications to sell it power, filed through March, with a combined output capacity of 1.568 gigawatts.
One Hokkaido Electric official justified the decision: “Our power grid has a limited capacity. Accepting too much power from solar plants, where output levels fluctuate wildly depending on the weather, compromises a stable supply of electricity.”
One Sapporo-based real estate company lost money speculating. The company purchased two plots of land to host solar power plants that never materialized. “We were taken in by a renewable energy bubble,” the company’s president lamented.
Hokkaido is one of the prime choices for hosting renewable energy plants, with solar power in the south of the island and wind power in the north.
“No growth target for renewable energy would be feasible without Hokkaido,” said Toru Suzuki, chairman of the nonprofit Hokkaido Green Fund.
Continue reading at Japan’s growth in renewable energy dims as nuclear strives for comeback