Japan is one of the most technologically advanced countries on Earth: it is a leader in electronics manufacturing, its Shinkansen bullet trains criss-cross its islands, and its next generation cars are poised to take the world by storm. But the country has a problem. Ever since the Fukushima disaster resulted in the shutdown of most of the country’s nuclear power plants, Japan has had a critical shortage of power.
While new coal and gas plants are the obvious (albeit polluting) solution, these are expensive, and make the country reliant on foreign energy suppliers. In order to find a better solution the country is turning to renewables to power both its homes and its industries. Wind, water, and importantly solar are all being deployed in order to get the country back to its previous levels of power generation.
But with solar, Japan faces another unique problem: a lack of land. However, the inventive Japanese has worked out a groundbreaking solution for this too. Kyocera Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp have teamed up to build a series of floating solar plants which will function as artificial solar generation islands. Together the first two floating power plants will generate a respectable 2.9MW of electricity.
Eventually there will be 30 'islands' generating 60MW of power.
While the technology is indeed ambitious, it is worth noting that these companies have significant experience working in the solar industry. Together they generate around 22MW of solar power across the country, through a number of different solar projects. Both companies hope to massively expand this in the coming years with the planned construction of at least 30 of these solar islands, each with a generation capacity of around 2MW.
The advantage of building solar plants that float on the ocean is that as well as not requiring expensive land purchases, they also have a much more consistent amount of sunlight. On land, trees, hills and mountains all do their bit to shade solar panels, reducing their overall efficiency, while at sea, such problems are avoided. Should these Japanese plants succeed, expect similar designs to start appearing off the coast of other space-restricted countries such as the UK,Taiwan or Singapore.
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