business

Japan's solar dream shatters as projects fail

37 Comments
By James Topham and Aaron Sheldrick

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37 Comments
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Softbank was aggresivly renting people's houses' rooftops for its solar panels. I wonder if that project is succesful..

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The solar farms need to be built on manmade islands along the Pacific Coast, which can include other renewables like tidal and wind.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

“Everybody and his brother and sister were kind of rushing in without any ability. The law doesn’t have any eligibility requirements. Absolutely none.”

Welcome to Japan. Solar power is but a microcosm -- this is a facet of society, from politicians all the way down. And it is a major shame.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

will cost the country’s utilities close to 350 billion yen annually

That's OK. Nobody has lost their house, farm and town, nobody is having radiation exposure, the sea and underground waters are nor affected. Most projects don't get benefits on the short term. When something is new, 9 fail for 1 that succeeds.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I dont see how solar energy can replace constant suppliers such as LNG or nuclear, unless a technology is developed where solar can be harnessed from space, then transmitted to earth. Night/day cycle and overcast severely limit solar output.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Several factors make the threshold for getting a project built in Japan much higher than the threshold for getting a project approved, James said. Those factors include:

A shortage of the qualified engineers required to oversee each project of 1 megawatt or larger. A shortage of qualified construction companies. A shortage of suitable land. A shortage of grid access: “Each utility has unique demand and land limits that determine how much of the approved pipeline can be approved for interconnection,” James said. “The market is huge, and the market is valuable,” James stressed. “But it has limits, and those limits are important to understand.” http://theenergycollective.com/stephenlacey/300581/japan-s-solar-market-surge-blows-away-earlier-forecasts

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@citja,

The technology used in the U.S. and Spain where they steam the water through solar concentrated on collectors mirrored to a tank, then heat a brine solution for long term steam generation takes up allot of land for the mirrors. Its used in desert areas as well. I dont see much of a possiblity of such technology in Japan.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

In 2012, global nuclear power was 390GW of electricity, while electricity from global renewable energy was 1,470GW, more than three times of that produced by nuclear energy.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Probably would have worked if they didn't spend all those trillions of yen bailing out TEPCO.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

SURPRISE! Welcome to reality people. Your magic fairy dust that would just make power after shutting all the nuclear reactors turned out to be just a fairy tale.

-6 ( +4 / -10 )

inakarob: "SURPRISE! Welcome to reality people. Your magic fairy dust that would just make power after shutting all the nuclear reactors turned out to be just a fairy tale."

Sorry, Rob, but how much money has gone into bailing out TEPCO while they try to keep in the black -- money that could have easily made renewable energy sources here more profitable, and the nation safer? Nah... let's invest more money instead into a company that has already failed. Let's invest more money still into said failed company to backstep and build new coal burning plants! Tell me what the exact total of how much Fukushima will cost and I will tell you many many hundreds of thousands of times over they could have succeeded with solar power.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

No, just build cheap rockets and deliver satellites to space to send power back to earth by microwaves.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Solar wont work. I have solar panels. They are merely ok and really only offset the massive taxes the government here in California puts on electricity.

The panels are simply too inefficient and far to expensive to be of value in commercial use. It might be feasible if every single rooftop and additional acres of land and or sea are covered in Solar. We have schools here who effectively covered entire parking lots with panels. There simply is not enough space to make it feasible unless panels can produce 20x or more in power production. I in fact have the highest density that can be purchased with 50 panels. Schools bought nearly 20,000 panels.

The other issue is cost. At 8 million 円 for just a house trying to do the same commercially is insane. It has to be at or under the cost of LNG or Coal to be feasible and it simply is not.

Then what do we expect, politicians do not pay attention to reality. In this case they want so much for Solar to work, they will believe any salesman who comes along saying they can do it with solar.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@zichi. Where do those numbers come from? Is the number for renewables actual output or just 'name plate' rating? Also does the renewable include hydro?

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

it fails because there is no real consumer encouragement, they put on these green initiative municipal pages, but if you look at real cost of putting solar on your house, it makes no sense because installation fee is way too high and subsidy cover only about 10% if you lucky enough to live in municipal area that does it... They should have put strict requirements and control installation pricing, all they did was create a fud which few smart developers / builders took advantage of and thats that... I would love to put panels on my roof, but there is none providing good soution unless you drop crazy cash into it which might pay off after 10 or so years...

0 ( +1 / -1 )

What the article describes is not a failure- PV is merely taking longer to establish than expected, which is not surprising as it's a newish and developing technology.

PV arrays were found in one UK study to contribute an average of 51% of building requirements- they are good for keeping the fridge/washing machine/AC going in daylight hours. Efficiency drops of when storage batteries or transmission are included.

Surely solar water heaters would be a safe bet in Japan- all that sun and a high requirement for domestic hot water for baths, washing etc. They'd save a lot of LPG and are a simpler to use technology with few conversion losses.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Surely solar water heaters would be a safe bet in Japan- all that sun and a high requirement for domestic hot water for baths, washing etc. They'd save a lot of LPG and are a simpler to use technology with few conversion losse"

I would take it you live abroad as they have been in use for many years in Japan. I think they use the thermosiphon effect; just circulating the water, or keep it in the tank for storage. They are very efficient in Japan. Many might mistake them for solar panels, but they are just solar heaters. Japan is a leader in this technology.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

In 2008, fossil fuel generated 117 petawatthour of power, nuclear fuel 8 petawatthour and renewable energy 18.5 petawatthour. 1 petawatthour=1 trillion kilowatthour.

Power generation from hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources worldwide will exceed that from gas and be twice that from nuclear by 2016, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said today in its second annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report (MTRMR).http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2013/june/name,39156,en.html

4 ( +5 / -1 )

all you dreamers need to wake up solar will never supply the base load power required, not until solar cells have a much higher efficency rate, not fo many year yet. also you need large amounts of wide open spaces and plenty of intense sunlight. none of which Japan has. Japan has no choice but to keep using Npower until renewables become much more affordable and practical

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Just introduce a law that every new house build be fitted with solar PV - they are cheaper if installed with a new build. We got a 5kw system that cost (net after rebates) 1.3m yen. Last months electric bill was MINUS 19,800en - a good monthly return on our investment - plus a carbon neutrally run house.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Japan could destroy its enviroment more and build more dams. Cold fusion, more wind turbines are possible alternatives. I dont know what else it can do; people dont use that much power here. The average Japanese house or apt. conusmes way less energy than anywhere in the world. Flourescent or LED lighting, split con energy efficient heat pumps, natural gas on demand water heaters and much more consume very little power. many of the factories I have been in dont use lighting, only sun roofs and heat or air con is non existant. Compare that to the U.S. or Europe with central heating, large blowers, lighting, electric heat, electric water heaters, everything large capacity.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

wtfjapan

I don't think solar has ever been expected to provide base load (it can't as it goes off at night)- it's just one of a range of renewable energy sources that can gradually eat into the nuclear/fossil share as time passes.

I'd keep some of the safest nuke plants going to provide the base load. Let's hope a few safety lessons have been taken on board from Fukushima though.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

On one hand I'm pleased that even 20% of these projects have been successful. That's the equivalent of 4 nuclear power plants if the article's figures are correct.

On the other hand I'm disappointed that solar power was chosen. It only supplies power in the day, takes up masses of land and degrades over time. The "daytime only" bit is the worst part, because it means that we'd have to double up the infrastructure, with oil/coal/gas for night and solar for day, which is wasteful and stupid. Something like wave power (with Japan's massive shoreline to land ratio) would have been a much wiser choice, and cheaper too - the generator bouys are so simple that school kids can (and have) made them, and they're quick and easy to install with no documented negative environmental impact.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think Japan may not be well-suited for solar power for one reason: the country is subject to a lot of bad weather that can affect solar panel performance. After all, between June-July rainy season, the August-September typhoon season, and the December-March snowstorms, that substantially cuts down on solar panel efficiency.

Japan should instead aggressively pursue geothermal power, given the main home islands of Japan are full of geothermal "hot spots" that can be tapped for power like the Geysers power plant installation north of San Francisco.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Global power generation by fuel types. Coal 40%. LNG 22%. Renewables 21%. Nuclear 12%. Oil 5%. Power from renewable energy is the fastest growing sector.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Raymond Chuang

I would disagree.

Many PV panels now can operate at very low irradiance levels and I think the "glare" conditions of the rainy season wouldn't be a problem. In fact the cool, sunny winter conditions in Japan are almost perfect for PV.

PV panels need photons of light to operate, which doesn't necessarily equate with strong direct sunlight- in fact high summer temperatures are more likely to be an impediment. Some Japanese manufacturers make panels that become quite efficient at very low light levels.

Don't know about the wave power, Frungy. There is undoubtedly a lot of energy potential in the sea to harvest, but it requires huge amounts of structural steel and engineering to do so (at the moment).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

On the other hand I'm disappointed that solar power was chosen.

It's a first experience of new energy. I think they can know try others and they will benefit from the experience of solar projects.

Something like wave power

So far, it's complicated actually, and destructive for environment. We have one in France, since forever, and they never found a second location to reproduce the experience. Idem for wind wheels. Well, whatever it is, we have to develop the next generation. But I don't believe in a reasonably safe nuclear plant in Japan.

The "daytime only" bit is the worst part, because it means that we'd have to double up the infrastructure,

Not double. The bigger needs (industry, aircon, transportation) are much higher during daytime. Actually now, as the plants produce roughly the same 24/24, there is too much supply during the night and there are incentives to make big users recharge batteries during the night. It's easy to inverse the recommendations.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Failure is a frequent stop on the journey to success. I hope the media coverage of the latter is greater!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some company dropped a turbine into the sea, some net citizens suspect it wasn't an accident: the project probably did not work out as expected, they say, while the subsidy has already been spent, so- - whether true or not, there added another stumbling block.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is why it has to come from the free market, not be driven by the government.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Too bad that Japan couldn't learn from successful examples from other countries. Why isn't Germany mentioned in the article? As well it if had 1/10 the subsidies of nuclear every-single-year it would be at least making cash flow and not leaking into the Pacific

0 ( +1 / -1 )

" This is why it has to come from the free market, not be driven by the government."

Precisely! This is known as "centrally-planned failure".

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

This is why it has to come from the free market, not be driven by the government.

And in the free market wind and solar have failed.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

A wind power device should be made and cheap enough for the average person to buy and put on the roof or support pole to feed energy to that home.

With today's technology Japan could lead the world in doing this. The government also needs to supply grants for the people to do it in stead of wasting taxpayers Yen on over-priced energy from the energy companies they have.

If I had the currency to start this I would at the drop of an apple.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If I had the currency to start this I would at the drop of an apple.

And that is why you don't have the currency, because you have wasted it on other doomed to fail ideas just like this one.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Just because this didn't work in Japan doesn't mean the idea is bad. Learn from mistakes, improve, get better. Where'd that wonderful kaizen spirit go?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just introduce a law that every new house build be fitted with solar PV - they are cheaper if installed with a new build. We got a 5kw system that cost (net after rebates) 1.3m yen. Last months electric bill was MINUS 19,800en - a good monthly return on our investment - plus a carbon neutrally run house.

This is exactly what I have always advocated, well at least before and since we had a 3.4 kW system installed and gas shut off. The system provides 50% of our electricity needs of our 150 square meter home and will have paid for itself in about 20 years, which is soon. The panels show very little evidence of losing its efficiency. Estimations show they will continue to be productive for at least another 20 years. Denying the place of solar electricity in our power needs is wrong and unfounded. Many large scale projects here in Japan have not come off the ground because of hesitating investors who could not gauge the political climate and government commitment. Utility invoices of several people with all electricity homes (no gas, heating oil) I know show they are selling more kW than buying. Electric power companies must not have a monopoly on power generation and distribution. There is an enormous amount of rooftop space that can generate power, distributable through the existing and if needed expanded grid. The utilities, of course, receiving a reasonable income. I am surprised and disappointed by the stuck-grammophone-needle repetitions that solar power cannot work to alleviate our power needs. Everyone's opinion is valuable, but please, let it be based on facts.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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