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Japan’s renewable energy puzzle: solar push threatens environment via The Guardian

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In the post-Fukushima era, local authorities around Japan are courting private investment in renewables as part of a push to dramatically increase their share of the national energy mix.

The project, along with dozens of other large-scale solar farms, is also supposed to help Japan – the world’s fifth-biggest carbon emitter – honour its Paris climate agreement vow to cut carbon emissions by 26% by 2030 from 2013 levels.

But while most residents support the Yamakura plant’s construction, in other parts of Chiba prefecture campaigners say the rush to blanket large areas with solar panels has the potential to unleash environmental catastrophes, even as they lower CO2 emissions.

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To make the Kamogawa mega solar plant, developers will destroy 300 hectares of pristine forest.

The irony of chopping down trees, which absorb CO2 in the air as they grow, to replace them with a solar plant has not been lost on campaigners, who claim the facility will destroy the natural environment and put the area at the mercy of the elements.

Of all of the countries investing in renewables, few are as in need of a fundamental rethink on energy policy as Japan. The country recently marked the seventh anniversary of the tsunami disaster and Fukushima meltdown – which resulted in the closure of dozens of nuclear reactors – yet it still lags behind other countries in clean energy development.

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But as long as local authorities see mega solar plants as a source of tax revenue – as well as cheap electricity – opponents appear powerless to halt their construction.

“This isn’t about pitting renewable energy against nuclear power,” said Yasufumi Horie, an opponent of the Kamogawa plant, who believes Fukushima has proved nuclear power is no longer a viable source of energy in Japan. “I’m in favour of renewables – the issue is the solar plants’ size and location.”

 
 

 

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