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Enthusiasm for solar power in Japan

The recent rush by home owners to cover their roofs with panels and companies to build “mega solar” farms have made solar cells a hot commodity.

“We are almost at grid parity here. Think of what would happen if Japan allows things to run their natural course and solar reaches grid parity

That all of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors lie dormant amid public concern in the wake of Fukushima is an added boost for solar power

Solar makers bet on Japan nuclear crisis being a game-changer  

* Solar power firms to get boost from feed-in tariff

* Foreign players looking to grab slice of Japan’s solar market

* Companies say FIT will encourage economies of scale

* Public faith in nuclear power still in tatters after Fukushima

By Shinichi Saoshiro TOKYO, June 5 (Reuters) – Solar power firms are betting that the nuclear crisis in Japan will become a game-changer for renewable energy in the world’s third largest economy, with new foreign entrants such as Canadian Solar looking to go toe-to-toe there with some of the biggest utilities in Asia.

They will be given a big helping hand next month when the government introduces a generous subsidy for renewable energy via a so-called feed-in tariff (FIT), in a bid to encourage alternative energy sources, which currently only generate about 1 percent of power in Japan.

The FIT, which excludes large hydro-electric schemes, will require utilities to buy electricity generated by renewable sources such as solar, wind and geothermal heat at a premium for 20 years. Costs will be passed on to consumers through higher power bills.

After dallying for years, lawmakers in Japan hastily turned FIT into law last summer, with the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011 severely shaking the public’s faith in atomic energy.

With the introduction of FIT, Japan’s Yano Research Institute expects investment in the country’s solar power sector to grow to 1.4797 trillion yen ($18.9 billion) in fiscal 2015 from 655.3 billion yen in the 2010 financial year……

“FIT is going to create a bubble without a doubt. That always happens with these kinds of schemes, but it will really kick off solar (in Japan),” said Yu Kaname, vice president of Canadian Solar Japan, which began business in the country in 2009 and was the first foreign company to take part in building a large-scale solar plant there…….

Kaname said the cost of producing solar-generated electricity would come down with the introduction of FIT, enabling it to reach “grid parity”, when the cost of generating electricity from renewable sources is equal to or lower than that sold on the common power grid.

“We are almost at grid parity here. Think of what would happen if Japan allows things to run their natural course and solar reaches grid parity. We will be playing with the big boys,” Kaname said, referring to the Japanese utilities that have long dominated the industry. These include Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility and one of Asia’s largest energy companies……

“The market is finally moving now that the FIT has been set, and we are being bombarded by enquiries,” said Yutaka Yamamoto, president of Suntech Power’s Japan unit.

“Foreign firms will now be able to fight on an equal footing in the non-residential solar panel market, which is the area that will see the fastest growth,” said Yamamoto.

The recent rush by home owners to cover their roofs with panels and companies to build “mega solar” farms have made solar cells a hot commodity.

Sales of solar cells rose 30 percent in 2011 from the previous year to just under 1.3 gigawatts, topping 1 gigawatt for the first time. They could rise above 2.5 gigawatts in the year through March 2013 with FIT, Sharp Corp Chairman Mikio Katayama said in May.

That all of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors lie dormant amid public concern in the wake of Fukushima is an added boost for solar power…… considering the fierce opposition the government is facing, [in its bid to restart nuclear reactors] few expect nuclear energy – which provided a third of Japan’s electricity before Fukushima – to play a key role again anytime soon…… http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/05/japan-renewables-solar-idUSL4E8ED5H020120605

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June 6, 2012 - Posted by | Japan, renewable

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