In hopes of reinventing its image, new life is breathing into Fukushima, the Japanese northeastern prefecture that was devastated by a 2011 tsunami and consequent nuclear power plant meltdown. Fukushima, which is Japan’s third largest prefecture, is revitalizing and transforming into a renewable energy hub.
Eight years ago, in March 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami, overwhelming the Fukushima reactors and causing the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl incident. Decontamination of Fukushima’s nuclear plant and surroundings are ongoing.
Since 2011, both the Japanese state and Fukushima local governments have ramped up the prefecture’s renewable energy production. To meet the entire region’s needs with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, endeavors are underway to cultivate and integrate clean energy sources like biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind.
There are already investor plans to construct 11 new solar farms and 10 wind power plants on under-utilized farmlands and hillsides tainted by radiation. Development of these new solar and wind power plants will take place in the next five years, with the first solar plant being a 20-megawatt (MW) installation planned for Minamisoma.
Estimated costs for all the green energy construction runs upward of 300 billion Japanese yen, or $2.75 billion in U.S. dollars. Financiers and stakeholders supporting the renewable energy hub construction include the state-run Development Bank of Japan and the private lender Mizuho Bank.
The Japanese are optimistic about the electrical power that will be generated, given the region’s current trajectory. Back in 2012, Fukushima only generated 400 MW of electricity, then increased to 1 gigawatt (GW) in 2016. By 2018, Fukushima region’s combined electrical power generation from renewables reached 1.5 GW. The 21 new plants under construction are expected to bring additional 600 MW to Fukushima’s energy output, the equivalent to powering 114,000 average American households.
A new, 50-mile wide grid is similarly in the works. Via the power transmission network of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the grid will connect and feed power from Fukushima into metropolitan areas of Japan’s capital, Tokyo, about 155 miles south of the prefecture. Cost projections for the grid are 29 billion yen, or $267 million.
This new clean energy action plan is aligned with the Fukushima prefecture’s goal of having renewables supply 40 percent of its electricity demand by 2020, two-thirds by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. The end goal for 2040 is that the entire Land of the Rising Sun will be completely powered through renewable energy.
Image via Andreas