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Quake-prone Japan looks at geothermal energy

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Many posters predictably criticized Yoko Ono a few weeks ago for her geothermal suggestions. The fact is that this is a no-brainer energy source that deserves much more research and development. Think about it, Toshiba and Mitsubishi have a 70% global market share and yet Japan utilizes geothermal for only 1% energy needs. Disgraceful.

6 ( +6 / -1 )

"by forcing power utilities to buy it at fixed prices and letting them pass extra costs onto consumers."no protection for the consumer once again, always the consumer gets hit.

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Washington-based environmental think-tank the Earth Policy Institute in April estimated that Japan could >produce 80,000 megawatts and meet more than half its electricity needs with conventional geothermal >technology.

So, even if that turns out to be an over-optimistic, still just half of it would be enough to replace Japans nuclear power plants.

Ironically, Japanese giants such as Toshiba and Mitsubishi are already global leaders in geothermal technology, with a 70% market share. Last year, Fuji Electric built the world’s largest geothermal plant in >New Zealand.

I guess this is because in other countries there are investors who are ready to pay for their products and services. Whereas in Japan the nuclear village has been blocking any attempts to try to invest in competing technology.

We can only hope that this will now change

1 ( +3 / -1 )

"Although Japanese high-tech companies are leaders in geothermal technology and export it..."

Why is Japan always like this? They create some of the best technology the world has seen but often don't use it here beyond the miniscule stated in the article, if at all. When I came to Japan, a LOT of people have no PC in their homes (until the big IT push nearly a decade ago), and while Hong Kong and other nations had IC cards at train and subway ticket gates that used Japanese tech, Japan still required you to buy a paper ticket. The answer is simply 'sales'. These companies make a LOT more exporting than instituting domestically. Of course, there's also the snail's pace at which things move on a large scale.

Paulinusa is right -- this is a no brainer. Hopefully this is something good that comes from the disaster, although it's a bit alarming that Japan still has plans for 12 more nuclear plants in the works (which Banri will push through if elected PM -- probably why Ozawa wants him, and as such lucrative construction bid-rigging, in).

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Geothermal just makes sense here.

Surely the up-front costs, even for multiple geothermal power facilities, wouldn't be anywhere near what it would cost to build nuclear power plants of similar generating capacity. And the potential environmental risks are obviously much lower, even if an effective geothermal plan calls for exploration in somewhat environmentally sensitive locations.

In terms of geologic time, geothermal resources are not unlimited--hot spots eventually shift, earthquake action can close off previously accessible vents, and depletion of the water table is sometimes a concern--but compared to the alternatives, this is a viable fairly long-term solution that, in Japan at least, should not be ignored.

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I should be PM I was screaming to use this years ago.

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Nuclear is the best answer for Japan and the rest of the world. I'm talking about 'green nuclear' that China is so quietly pushing ahead with. They'll develop operational LFTR reactors in a year or so then sell the technology to the world. Safe, smaller, in the same situation as Fukushima they would have sputtered out instead of going haywire. Nobody seems to want to know about thorium reactors which can actually utilize the waste from uranium reactors Infinitely safer, no plutonium, just as powerful and 4 times as plentiful. Google TED talks Kirk Sorensen former NASA designer and let him explain it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2vzotsvvkw

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darkbob, just after the Fukushima disaster I tried finding good sources of information on thorium reactors and, like you say, nobody seems to want to know about them! In the US they're considered too experimental and expensive, I guess...

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@Minello7

by forcing power utilities to buy it at fixed prices and letting them pass extra costs onto consumers."no protection for the consumer once again, always the consumer gets hit.

Well my feelings about this is a bit dual.

Firstly, I think it makes sense, in a way that consumers bears the cost of producing the energy they use. However, as the market is currently not fair, there is no way to ensure that the prices paid by customers are fair.

Where I come from, the gov has forced a division of the distribution parts and production parts of the old power giants. And in theory you pay the distribution company for the costs of maintaining the power line infrastructure, metering and so on. The distribution company buys electricity from the production companies and sell to customers. The customer can book certain green types of energy that he wants to support, and the distribution company is bound to buy at least that amount of green energy from the production companies.

I left right about the time that this was being implemented, so I am not to sure as to how well it has been working. I see risks of cartels gaming the system. But then again in Japan they don't need to game, as they pretty much own the system.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Geothermal is a good idea, but you can say goodbye to your onsens.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Geothermal is a good idea, but you can say goodbye to your onsens.

Why? Iceland for instance, has managed to have both. They don't need to be mutually exclusive.

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Why? Iceland for instance, has managed to have both. They don't need to be mutually exclusive.

Sure. But geothermal energy isn't actually renewable. It runs out and with it so do your onsens. Also, they add CO2 to the atmosphere. Good idea, but not ideal.

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@2020hindsights

Sure. But geothermal energy isn't actually renewable.

I is replenished, at a slow rate. You know that they are not actually running the turbines directly of the under ground "onsen" water, letting it evaporate into the atmosphere right?

As for the heat being depleted, well it seems there is plenty of heat energy under Japan. You of course need to balance your out take so that you are not depleting your resource. Same as for any natural resource.

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" But geothermal energy isn't actually renewable. "

As long as the rate of extraction doesn't exceed the rate of what's provided by mother nature, it IS renewable.

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Hope it would be more successful than in Basel, Switzerland. Implementing a geothermal solution there actually caused earthquakes! Something we don't need here. Hopefully the geology of Japan means it should be easier to access the heat required?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Hope it would be more successful than in Basel, Switzerland. Implementing a geothermal solution there actually caused earthquakes! Something we don't need here. Hopefully the geology of Japan means it should be easier to access the heat required?

I do believe It would be much easier to access here. And also the 3.1 earth quake that they saw in Switzerland would hardly register on the scale here in Japan. These type of 'mini seismic quakes' also sometimes occur when drilling for oil and gas, and are not specific to Geothermal

I didn't have time to count, but I guesstimated about 100 quakes of M3.1 or higher for the past week. http://www.jma.go.jp/en/quake/quake_local_index.html

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is great news. New Zealand also gets energy this way, maybe over one quarter. But I think Japan should quickly develop and become the world leader in solar, wind, wave and tidal electricity generation fields. If Japan can become the master of this technology, then it can take the world Market by storm and take back second place. It is just a matter of time before the next nuke disaster like Eihime nuclear power station from the great Wakayama earthquake(Canada had a big leak this year, America had the wildfire on the nuke research centre and the shutdown of the old one with the East Coast earthquake etc), so after the next disaster, people will demand change.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Hurray! Well, not really - this is an old, existing plant. But hurray if Japan gets serious about using geothermal. The fact that it has been largely ignored in a country that must have the most abundant geothermal resources in the world is astonishing. If the same investment had been made in geothermal as has been made in nuclear energy in Japan - probably even only a significant fraction - could have provided cheap energy without any radiation risk and no need for decommissioning concerns. The atomic plants will be a radiation hazard for generations to come - all of them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's easy to say "Yes, this is a great option!" but the article does bring up the matter of conservation. Many of the remote regions can easily sustain both tourism and geothermal ventures, but while onsen proprietors are free to establish (almost) anywhere, it would be tougher for power companies to start drilling into sensitive land and building structures much larger than a two-story luxury ryokan.

Japan already has a lot of "green" laws, projects, and products, and some of them have been around for more than a decade. Perhaps it's time to relax the hold a little on greenbelt preservation for the sake of lowering the volume of nuclear waste.

TEPCO might throw a tantrum about the geo movement for a few years, but if they're smart (big IF there), they'll jump on the geothermal bandwagon, purchase the appropriate land rights, contract tech from Mitsubishi or Toshiba, and start letting some steam out (literally) instead of contaminating more fish, cows, and crops.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As long as the rate of extraction doesn't exceed the rate of what's provided by mother nature, it IS renewable.

Even oil is renewable - eventually!

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Great news! It's a shame it comes 30 years and a nuclear disaster late though. How many geothermal plants could TEPCO have built with the billions of bucks there gonna be paying out in compensation over the next two or three decades?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Never understood while living in aomori why geothermal heated water wasn't used for heating houses.

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Geewhiz, Japan is filled with a news of election, eruption, and erection today. They never have a boring moment, don't they?

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For one, I don't think its practical to get the energy from the hotspots to the big cities where its needed most. More than this, I suggest energy saving measures (buildings are just not built with the idea of utilizing wind etc to keep the building cool) and convert all needed nuclear reactors to thorium, something that should have been done years ago. I just don't think geothermal can meet even reduced demand, and so much so, that it will always be secondary. Even better use of wind would do more I think.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This is great news. New Zealand also gets energy this way, maybe over one quarter.

Actually 10%. New Zealand used to have 90% renewable energy and is now 75% due rising population. Hydroelectric energy in New Zealand in quite unpopular despite having no carbon emissions. Geothermal power is classified as renewable even though it isn't. New Zealand's oldest geothermal power plant is running out of steam (literally). And geothermal releases carbon.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Rotorua in New Zealand is situated in a very thermal area. The residents used to tap into the ground for hot water. This was banned about 30 years ago. The reason? The hot water was running out and the nearby geysers were getting smaller. It's not unlimited. It does run out.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nuclear power is the safe, clean, cheap and environmentally friendly energy choice for the future.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

@j4p4nFTW

Nuclear power is the safe, clean, cheap and environmentally friendly energy choice for the future.

Please move to Fukushima and enjoy the safe environment to prove your theory.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Great that they are working at geothermal energy but you know what IT IS TOO LATE. The worst possible damage has already been done. This is akin to your house burning down due to your smoking in bed and then proclaiming to change to chewing tobacco instead.

Fukushima is still ongoing with no clear end in sight. Having said that I do applaud the attempts to move to geothermal.

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ganbatte nippon. its best and free energy source what japan could choose. i just dont know why does it take so long forget about the dangerous nucleair centers and replace them with geothermal energy. not just using the energy open onsen. go ahead japan. go go go...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Not every Geothermal plant will operate for ever in one location, but neither do nukes, here's looking at you Fukishima!

Geothermal start up per KWhr maybe more than nuke, BUT nuke clean up may take a few hundred thousand years - total cost is unimaginable!!

Any accident at a Geothermal plant pales in comparison to Fukishima, Chernobyl, etc http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accidents (wikipedia may / may not be 100% correct, but there is a basic list of stuff that went wrong to date)

backing nuke for the long-term in Japan with our current level of technology is unimaginable!! ANYTHING else is looking good at this stage.

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Japan is surrounded by seas, so is tidal energy being also considered as a viable option?

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“Japan should no doubt make use of its volcano, magma and other geothermal energy,” said Yoshiyasu Takefuji, professor of Tokyo’s Keio University and a prominent researcher of thermal-electric power generation. Thank god all mighty! Finally a Japanese prominent professor not only intelligent but also good old common horse sense!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Back up what I say? I'm not a scientists but I am savvy enough to do research and learn. Thorium is without question the future, safe 'green' nuclear energy but blocked by the vested interests of the current nuclear industry. Uranium was only chosen over thorium which is every bit as powerful by the US military, as plutonium for weapons can be extracted. Experimental? Not at all... it's operational and the Chinese are readying their technology for it's implementation within the next four years. india also has built working reactors but stymied but the lack of interest. this is not pie-in-the-sky but here and now. THe problem is only that it's ignored.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Great idea. Japan should copy Iceland who get most of thier energy from geothermal. if they have to rescources to do it then they should use them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

you need a balanced approach. geothermal, wind, solar & tidal seems to be the way to go . use a bit of everything.

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@2020 Hindsight

Also, they add CO2 to the atmosphere.

Actually the Jury, is still out on this one. Some researchers are saying that the Co2 would have been released naturally anyway. And they are not finding any significant difference between producing and non producing Geo Thermally Active Fields.

In fact latest designs for Geo Thermal production actually removes Co2 from the atmosphere by sequestering. These designs are currently being tested in Iceland.

No time to dig up the references right now, but a Google search for Geothermal Co2 Sequestering should do the trick I think.

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"Recluse-prone Japan Looks to Other Countries"

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Never understood while living in aomori why geothermal heated water wasn't used for heating houses.

That would be central heating and Japan does not have central heating. Warm houses are not the Japanese way. You'll be asking for insulation next!

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Wait a minute, according to some of the posters here the massive ball of infinite fire that has been burning for billions of years under us and provides us with a magnetic field and as such an atmosphere isn't renewable?! We're in big trouble if charging my iPod is going to kill that. If you did deep enough there is always going to be more heat than we could ever use. Geothermal is the only way forward in my opinion. It is so simple and effective. Why cook up more complicated unnatural forms of nuclear energy when we are sitting on so much of it?

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the massive ball of infinite fire

you see they are right, we only have about 6 billion years of geothermal left !

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you see they are right, we only have about 6 billion years of geothermal left !

Well that will only be a brief pause for about 1 billion years until the Sun goes super nova on us, and we will have all the free energy we could wish for. Sad thou that my iPad X99 77G will evaporate before I have time to charge it. :S

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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