American entrepreneur and philanthropist Elon Musk, through his Musk Foundation, has donated $250,000 to build a solar power system in Soma City, in Fukushima Prefecture. Last week, Musk -- who co-founded PayPal and Tesla Motors -- visited an area of Soma City that was devastated by a tsunami earlier this year, for a ceremony at the site where the project will be built.
SolarCity is donating time and resources to manage the project, which will provide renewable electricity to a city facility located on reclaimed industrial land not suitable for agriculture.
The solar arrays will consist of high-efficiency solar panels manufactured in Japan, and will be installed by local workers in Fukushima. The project will create local construction jobs and can act as a model for the reuse of disaster-stricken areas in other parts of Japan for clean energy generation.
Much of the eastern portion of Soma was flooded by a devastating tsunami following a massive earthquake on March 11. The city is about 43 kilometers north of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the site of the nuclear accident caused by the tsunami. Soma City’s agriculture, dairy and fishing industries were devastated by the tsunami, and tourism has been hurt by concerns about any lasting effects of the nuclear disaster.
Despite Soma City’s proximity to the Fukushima plant, the winds and topography have protected the city and prevented the need for citizens to evacuate. Musk said he hopes that by visiting the region, he can demonstrate that it is safe for others, both within and outside of Japan, to do so.
“We are grateful to Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation for this generous gift, and for coming such a long way to personally visit Soma City,” said Soma Mayor Hidekiyo Tachiya. “Recovery requires us to build new industries, and our next generation wants them to be supported by new kinds of energy. With this project as a beginning, Soma City hopes to become a model for Japan’s energy future.”
The Soma City project will be the Musk Foundation’s second donated solar project the last 12 months. The Musk Foundation donated the funds and SolarCity donated labor to build a solar power system for a hurricane response center in southern Alabama in December 2010, to provide renewable power with battery backup to an area that had been devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.© Business Wire