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How nuclear-free Japan made it through hottest summer yet without brownouts

28 Comments

The nation's nuclear power generators having been shut down since 2011. Summer temperatures, with their commensurate power demand, have been climbing. Yet warnings at the time of the nuclear plant shutdowns, to the effect that the aging thermal generators would not be able to meet peak demands, have not come to pass.

What's made it possible to keep the juice flowing? J-Cast News (Aug 27) reports that one factor has been the growing use of solar power, which when demand is highest during daylight hours has been pitching in to keep the air conditioners chugging along.

During two straight weeks of sunny weather, and particularly from July 31 to August 7 -- during a record-breaking string of eight consecutive "moshobi," during which daytime peak temperatures in Tokyo surpassed 35 degrees Celsius -- the power suppliers came through with flying colors. According to Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), a new record of 29.57 million kilowatts of power demand was set at 1 p.m. on August 7. Fortunately even without nuclear power, use of outside suppliers to supplement TEPCO's power generated in-house meant that usage by its own thermal plants reached 92% of capacity, leaving it with a surplus of 8%.

From the beginning of August, a source within the power industry revealed that "as we're getting lots of solar power from noontime, there's no problem, even without the nuclear reactors. They're supplying enough that we can even hold back on the thermal generator output."

What's so remarkable was that in addition to the 23.84 million kilowatts being produced by TEPCO's own generators, 9.91 million kilowatts, or about 20% of the total, were supplied by outside companies, which TEPCO has contracted to buy at fixed prices. A good portion of these are sourced from solar or wind power.

As of the end of June this year, some 7.9 million kilowatts of solar and other forms of renewable energy are serving TEPCO's network, which on sunny days are calculated to be capable of supplying the amount of power provided by the nuclear plants. About half of the 9.91 million kilowatts provided by the outside suppliers is said to be sourced from solar power.

The situation is similar in other regional power utilities. On Aug 4 at 4 p.m., the time of highest power demand in Kansai reached 25.57 million kilowatts. Of Kansai Electric Power Co's 27.81 million kilowatts maximum capacity, 6.34 million kilowatts are supplied to KEPCO by outside firms, again about half of which is solar energy.

The day of highest demand for Kyushu Electric Power Co, Aug 6 at 4 p.m., was 15 million kilowatts. Its peak capability is 17.21 million kilowatts, of which 4.70 million are sourced from outside suppliers -- nearly as much as the 5.17 million the island's five nuclear generators used to produce.

The J-Cast News reporter reminds readers that once night falls, solar power generation naturally drops to zero, and that output also declines on cloudy days. But fortunately the kind of hot, sunny afternoons when power demand is at its highest, coincide with the time when solar power generation is at its most efficient. What's more, buying power from these suppliers lowers the burden on the power utilities' thermal reactors and helps reduce energy consumption, so it's not a bad thing at all. That said, solar is not a perfect solution, since demand for air conditioning on some days does not taper off quickly with the coming of darkness. Still, its contribution to the power grid during this past month has turned out to be an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

28 Comments
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The author of this article fails to consider the critical issue of climate change and how all of this is affecting greenhouse gas emissions. The argument here seems to be that everything is all right since the consumer demand for power is being met. In fact, we should be drastically reducing demand as well as finding more efficient means and switching to renewables as fast as possible.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

What’s so remarkable was that of the 23.84 million kilowatts being produced by TEPCO’s own generators, 9.91 million kilowatts, or about 20% of the total, were supplied by outside companies, which TEPCO has contracted to buy at fixed prices.

Perhaps the author can enlighten us on this gem, too?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

@warispeace

exactly… unfortunately 'civilization' rides (and always has) on the back of waste… (hence war, since it is the quinntessence of waste, all that luvverly destruction… war is waste)… and waste means profit, so probably best not to hold our breaths… I know you know this but…

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Be nice if the author included a simple pie chart of energy consumption by fuel type so far in 2015. What is the actual percentage of energy produced in Japan from hydro and other renewable sources? In 2013 it was 4% hydro and only 2% other renewable like solar, 93% was energy produced by fossil fuels.

http://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis.cfm?iso=JPN

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Yep, no brownouts means there are no other problems and no other issues to be considered. No need to mention increased CO2 emissions, increased pollution from use of coal and the health effects of that pollution, effects on overall economy of increased fossil fuel imports, effects on individual companies and people (especially those on fixed incomes like pensioners) of higher electricity prices. And of course no need to mention the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been pocketed due to the nuclear shutdown by the fossil fuel and renewable energy companies through increased sales, higher prices, and higher stock prices. Not that anybody would have intentionally tried to profit from the situation, I'm sure the nuclear industry has been shut down purely due to a deep concern for public safety among the powers that be.

Yes, life is amazingly easy if you just ignore all the stuff that contradicts your happy little narrative.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

The cheapest oil prices in the long history have helped also a lot. Also, devices working at 100V are more stable during brownouts (a 10% change in voltage is actually not such a big change as at 240V for example).

4 ( +4 / -0 )

well, 2 downvotes in short order… anonymous of course… I wonder why… you expect that people (including you and I are about to stop being wasteful? hold your breath if you want, but….. (´ ▽`).。o♡

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Or it's more like rail companies like JR & Metro skimping on the air con, while commuters just shouganai & suffer. This summer was unbearable. Have ticket prices changed in this ridiculously long setsuden period? Yes - they've gone up! Where's all that extra cash going, hmm?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The author of this article fails to consider the critical issue of climate change

Because that's not what the article is about.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Here's the problem with this article:

What’s so remarkable was that in addition to the 23.84 million kilowatts being produced by TEPCO’s own generators, 9.91 million kilowatts, or about 20% of the total, were supplied by outside companies, which TEPCO has contracted to buy at fixed prices. A good portion of these are sourced from solar or wind power.

First, there is no mention of what this portion is.

Second, it uses power - kilowatts. What we need is how many kilowatt hours were delivered, as power output from renewables is variable. A solar array could be achieving maximum output one day, and near zero the next.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

I guess we are supposed to read this and feel encouraged that more electric power is being supplied from renewable sources. Certainly Japan is one of the countries that can benefit if it cuts imports of oil, coal and gas now being used. If they can up the percentage to 20 or 30 percent, it might give them ammunition against the people who want to put nuclear reactors back online.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The one problem that power companies are complaining about is that with solar power they do not have a steady reliable source, it varies with the weather, and they have to continue producing at night time as well. Hence power utilities not wanting to pay for power generated outside their own grids. (meaning purchasing from private producers)

I have solar panel on my roof and we were fortunate to be able to have the local utility contract with us for excess electricity produced before they decided to quit purchasing from private suppliers, without it, it would have been almost meaningless for us to put in the panels as they cost a TON (2.6 Million yen for 20 panels)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When I was taking some data heavy economic exams, the teacher reminded us that the type of question was best answered by drawing a simple data table rather than writing everything out long-hand and confusing the writer and reader. A useful lesson.

But my basic conclusion is that solar power makes some level of contribution to the hole left by nuclear power, although I do not know how big the the hole is.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

yet Japan burnt much more fossil fuels that dwarf any gains in solar, solar will never be a base load power generator. oil/gas/coal and nuclear will be doig that for many years to come

0 ( +4 / -4 )

How nuclear-free Japan made it through hottest summer yet without brownouts

Maybe they did it by building a bunch of new fossil fuel power generation plants.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Can we stop patting TEPCO on the back?, It was, after all, that dratted company that caused the crisis

5 ( +6 / -1 )

We don't need Nuclear power! Solar can handle the flux

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The combination of Japan's declining population and advances in electronics like LED lighting will mean demand for electricity will be dropping as time moves forward. So nuclear power will no longer be needed. Many are stuck in the past on the way they think about this problem.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

It is an interesting article. The comments of readers reflected their genuine concerns such as climate change due to greater fossil power consumption.I was intrigued to see that except for an indirect reference no one talked about nuclear power.

Many expected that energy specialists in Japan will use the nuclear free period to develop technological innovations to augment investments in solar and wind power industry. Apparently, it did not happen.Renewed interest in storage batteries capable of storing about 2 to 4 kilowatt is an instance in point. The technology to stabilize solar power by installing electronic stabilizers which play the game when solar and wind power moves up and down is an interesting area.

Bigger power utilities will share the fortunes of solar and wind power in the short term; they may not happy to see solar and wind power to disrupt their business model. The frailties of solar and wind power industry will become evident if they disclose the annual contribution. Accepting these issues, it is still worthwhile to produce wind and solar power to the extent possible<>

3 ( +3 / -0 )

****All that money saved by making people sweat on trains goes into the company's coffers.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

YogiZuna,

The combination of Japan's declining population and advances in electronics like LED lighting will mean demand for electricity will be dropping as time moves forward. So nuclear power will no longer be needed.

Lighting does not take up a massive part of Japan's electricity use, so LEDs and other more efficient products are not going to make a massive dent in the near future.

Why people can write that nuclear power will not be needed, whilst ignoring the effect of fossil fuels is beyond me.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

"Nuclear power kills fewer people than solar per unit of electricity, says University College London Professor Tim Stone" http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/business/nuclear-power-kills-fewer-people-than-solar-per-unit-of-electricity-says-university-college-london-professor-tim-stone/story-fni6uma6-1227260446437

"Coal, oil and even solar power all kill more people than the much-maligned nuclear." http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/03/nuclear-power-coal-produced

"Nuclear power is the safest source of energy by a long way. Solar power causes five to 10 times as many deaths (depending on the estimate of panel longevity) per unit of energy generated." "Want to kill fewer people? Go nuclear" http://www.smh.com.au/comment/want-to-kill-fewer-people-go-nuclear-20130710-2pqbq.html

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Go nuclear?

That's really impossible for anyone say since that crap is going to be around for 10,000 years +. I hope you'll form a secret watchdog gang and pledge the future generations of your family to guard the nuclear waste sites. Of course, Mother Nature might have different plans.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

If radiation is a concern, then be careful of renewables using rare-earth metals with traces of radioactive uranium and thorium; wind/solar farms occupy acres and acres and can spread radiation to everywhere possibly contaminating soils and foods. http://instituteforenergyresearch.org/analysis/big-winds-dirty-little-secret-rare-earth-minerals/

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Yes, life is amazingly easy if you just ignore all the stuff that contradicts your happy little narrative.

Our happy little narrative does not include a nuclear meltdown as was had in 2011.

The cries of the nuclear village and their LDP lapdogs about brownouts have simply been lies. Japan does not need nuclear meltdowns any longer. Solar is more than enough to replace nuclear and do that safely.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Our happy little narrative does not include a nuclear meltdown as was had in 2011.

Actually your happy little narrative does include a nuclear meltdown, and the narrative claims that people must never acknowledge that there are health and financial costs to the present solution for avoiding another nuclear meltdown, let alone bother to calculate those costs.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"Nuclear power is the safest source of energy by a long way. Solar power causes five to 10 times as many deaths (depending on the estimate of panel longevity) per unit of energy generated." "Want to kill fewer people? Go nuclear"

I,d much rather live within a 30km radius of a solar plant than a nuclear one. So would everyone I know. May we assume you,d prefer to have a Nuclear plant as your neighbour? No, BS...didnt think so.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I,d much rather live within a 30km radius of a solar plant than a nuclear one.

I wouldn't mind either, though for electricity, I would much prefer nuclear over solar.

I do worry about the large dams upstream from where I live though!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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