Japan Launches Biomass Energy Program

on Jun 3, 2012

Last year’s tsunami and the subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant had huge environmental and economical impact on Japan. But it the biggest consequences remain for the country’s energy mix, as the government is now actively trying to move away from nuclear energy, showing an increasingly strong commitment to various forms of renewable. Nuclear is stepping away in favor of renewable and there could hardly be a better indication of the “changing of the guard” than the new Biomass Energy Program, which will be fueled by wood from the decommissioned nuclear power plants.

After the Fukushima crisis, Japan has declared its commitment to renewable energy loud and clear. Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, before his resignation said that his country needs to “end its reliance on atomic power and promote renewable sources of energy such as solar that have long taken a back seat in the resource-poor country’s energy mix”.

The country has already turned to various alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar. There is also much promise in their geothermal program, which aims to harness the country’s notorious geological activity to produce electricity. Being on the edge of the so called Ring of Fire, Japan has potential to develop a sector that would have significant contribution to the country’s energy mix. According to official estimations, there are 23.47 gigawatts of potential geothermal energy available in the country’s hot springs alone, so further exploration of that potential seems the most logical move. But Japan’s plans include biomass energy too.

The Biomass Energy Program almost feels like a symbolic act that marks the end of one era and the start of another, but it’s also a sign of a well thought out and efficient government policy. The country plans to use the wood waste, or more than 70% of the total 22 million tons of waste, from its more than 50 offline nuclear power plants to fuel the four 2-5 megawatt biomass plants in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. This is certainly a way to make the best out of a bad situation.Once the resource from the debris runs out, there will be additional wood, coming from lumber and paper mills, to fuel the plants. Ash from radioactive wood will be removed once officials decide the safest way of disposal.!m[](/uploads/story/30/thumbs/wood_pellets_inline.png)

Renewable energy is far from being fully adopted in Japan, but the signs that the current situation will change are strong. The Fukushima disaster has shown that the country needs to downsize its dependence on nuclear energy and the message is clearly heard. Japan is not abandoning nuclear entirely and there will be some sort of nuclear program in the future, but it’s obvious that the role of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix will increase. Plans for mega solar projects and wind farms are evident of Japan’s intentions to move on past atomic energy for good. Utilizing old power plants to fuel the new ones is the best indication that “the changing of the guard” has already begun.


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