Disasters Steer Japan to Embrace Solar Energy
You may be familiar with the flag of Japan, which shows a large red disk representing the sun. So what better place than Japan to create a national energy policy based on utilizing the virtually limitless resource of the sun? Just on the heels of the disasters that befell Japan, the government there has just enacted the Sunrise Plan, a solar agenda to increase energy independence.
The Sunrise Plan comes just after the decision to halt plans to expand Japan's nuclear program and focus more on renewable energy, including solar energy. In Tokyo, officials aim to reduce the cost of installing solar power by over 65% by 2020 and over 80% by 2030. According to The Telegraph, by 2030 Japan hopes to have mandatory solar panels on all new homes and buildings. Part of the Sunrise Plan includes 12,000 schools and 1,200 standing establishments being retrofitted with solar panels. An article on AFP says that Japan intends to install solar panels in 10 million households, similar to the not going very far ten million roofs initiative introduced last year in the U.S. Congress.
In the future, Japan foresees utility companies being required to buy excess energy produced from solar panel systems mounted on homes or businesses. Utility companies would have to pay more for the solar energy than what standard electricity costs, thus giving a huge incentive to install solar panels.
As Japan fully embraces solar energy for its domestic needs, it will likely take a leadership role in innovating new technologies to use the sun's rays to produce energy. Japan and the European Union are partnering up, starting this month, to develop more efficient solar cells. With the backing of several industrial and private research institutes along with six European nations, Japan is looking to increase the conversion efficiency of solar cells to more than 45% by fiscal 2014 says Nikkei.com. Researchers are using lenses or mirrors to concentrate sunlight on each individual cell, increasing the efficiency. Together, Japan and the EU are investing 1.2 billion Yen (15.5 million US Dollars) in this project.
So is there a silver lining in the horrific events in Japan? One commentator thinks so. Ben Warren of Ernst & Young writes in PV Magazine that the events in Japan "will help move solar out of a niche technology corner and into the mainstream of power generation technologies." Because solar energy is exceedingly safer than nuclear energy and greener than traditional fossil fuels, many nations are investing in solar energy. This will result in better technology in the solar industry and even more reasons for individuals to go green and purchase their own solar panels.