Solar Power Is Booming In Japan
Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan is turning to renewable energy, and especially solar power, in a big way. By the end of 2012, Japan had already installed 7.4 gigawatts of solar power capacity, but that’s set to double this year, according to analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

This stellar pace of growth in solar power is set to make Japan the second-fastest growing solar market in the world, second only to neighboring China. It will also make the country the holder of the third-largest total installed solar capacity, behind Germany and Italy.

In the aftermath of Fukushima, former prime minister Naoto Kan launched a feed-in tariff which helped the solar market take off. Kan’s aim was to develop Japan’s renewable energy capacity to make it at least 20% of Japan’s energy mix by the 2020s. Japan has been heavily reliant on nuclear power for decades. Currently, renewable energy accounts for around 10% of Japan’s electricity, so there’s a lot of room for growth in solar.

Japan’s feed-in tariff requires power utilities to buy electricity from renewable sources at fixed prices. Those utilities are mostly buying the power from companies and private households with solar power installed. This requirement for utilities to buy renewable power at fixed prices allows both businesses and households to act as mini-power plants, receiving revenue from any excess power they generate. It is encouraging further investment in solar power throughout the country.

It’s going to be interesting to see just how far Japan reaches with its solar power development in coming years, and whether it exceeds expectations are solar photovoltaic system become cheaper an cheaper, as expected. Apart from the feed-in tariff, because of Fukushima, public opinion is behind the development of renewables, rather than continuing to rely on nuclear power. Who would blame them?

The City of Santa Clara is aiming to become more sustainable and has set a goal of installing 30 megawatts of customer-installed solar power by 2017. With a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) several projects included solar power including a new solar project at Henry Schmidt Park. Vista Solar, who managed the project, selected SunPower solar panels for the rooftop project.

In one week, Vista Solar finished the project on-time and on-budget. “Working with Vista Solar went really smoothly. We had great communication from Vista Solar, and we are really happy with our solar system,” said Mary Medeiros McEnroe, Public Benefit Program Manager for the City of Santa Clara.

Henry Schmidt Park’s lighting, internal electric baseboard heating, and other electrical appliances are now being powered by solar energy. The City of Santa Clara is turning to Vista Solar again for a 125 kW solar system at the Jenny Strand Solar Research and Development Park.
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