Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The One We Use

Sometimes, people and nations listen. In the horror of Fukushima and that great wave of destruction that moved across the eastern shores of Japan, two great powers are responding appropriately. Ironically, they lost the last world war.

The first announcement came from Japan's Prime Minister:

"At a press conference last week, Prime Minister Naoto Kan effectively scrapped Japan's plan for increasing domestic electricity supply. "Under the current energy policy, by the year 2030, more than 50% of Japan's electricity will come from nuclear power generation and 20% from renewable energy sources," he said. "However, we now have to go back to the drawing board and conduct a fundamental review of the nation's basic energy policy." Renewable-energy experts agree that the ongoing nuclear crisis, while tragic, could be a remarkable opportunity to move away from the country's focus on nuclear power development and imported fossil fuels toward solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and other natural domestic sources. (clip)

New legislation is expected to help diversify the nation's energy portfolio. A new feed-in tariff (FIT) will oblige utility companies to buy all the power generated through renewable sources connected to a grid at fixed, premium rates. Prices are different depending upon the type of renewable energy. Japan's first FIT scheme in 2009 created a market for electricity generated by homeowners that installed solar-power systems.

The expanded tariff will go into effect on a full commercial scale in Japan next April, and will include solar PV, wind, biomass, geothermal and small hydropower projects. "With mandated pricing, regulated by law, anyone that goes into business and produces power, regardless of how they do it, knows there is a marketplace for the power," says Giuffre. "There are a lot of people lining up to do projects."

Who knows?

They just might find that the evacuated land around Fukushima that will need to be purchased, will be useful for giant solar fields that might power 20% of Japan's total electric load. If the evacuation zone of 30 by 60 Km is converted to harvesting solar energy, 80,000 MWs of solar could be built. That's 15 times more capacity than the plant (which was one of the 15 largest in the world at 4.7 GW) and four times the energy.

In 2008, Japan ranked third in the world in electricity production, after the United States and China, with 1.025×1012 kWh[5] produced during that year.[6] In terms of per capita electricity consumption, the average person in Japan consumed 8,459 Kilowatt-Hours in 2004 compared to 14,240 for the average American.

The other great power is Germany.

Germany to stop using nuclear power

The Associated Press

BERLIN — Germany is determined to show the world how abandoning nuclear energy can be done.

The world's fourth-largest economy stands alone among leading industrialized nations in its decision to stop using nuclear energy because of its inherent risks. It is betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy to meet power demands instead.

The transition was supposed to happen slowly over the next 25 years, but is now being accelerated in the wake of Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster, which Chancellor Angela Merkel has called a "catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions."

Berlin's decision to take seven of its 17 reactors offline for three months for new safety checks has provided a glimpse into how Germany might wean itself from getting nearly a quarter of its power from atomic energy to none.

And experts say Germany's phase-out provides a good map that countries such as the United States, which use a similar amount of nuclear power, could follow. The German model would not work, however, in countries like France, which relies on nuclear energy for more than 70 percent of its power and has no intention of shifting.

"If we had the winds of Texas or the sun of California, the task here would be even easier,"

Here in Texas, we do have those winds.

And we have our own California sun

but at West Texas prices.

And we have the brains.

I guess it depends on which

one we use.