Today’s Solutions: September 28, 2023

A year after Fukushima’s nuclear disaster, the regional government set a goal of meeting all of its energy demands with renewables by 2040. Now — 11 years after the tsunami — solar farms, green hydrogen, and micro-grids are ushering in a new energy future for the region.

From nuclear disaster site to green energy haven

After the earthquake-triggered tsunami prompted a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear station on March 11, 2011, mass evacuations ensued over radiation fears. The government then set the 2040 renewable target in a bid to help residents “reclaim” the place they call home, according to officials.

Thanks to hefty financial support from the national government, the prefecture has made substantial progress in switching to environment-friendly energy sources. At the end of 2020, Fukushima supplied 43 percent of its energy needs with renewable power sources — that’s almost double what it was in 2011.

“A strong desire to never see a repeat of such an accident was the most important starting point” for the green energy progress, said Noriaki Saito, energy director at the prefecture’s planning department.

Green hydrogen at the forefront

Solar farms now lie along tsunami-ravaged coastlines north of the former nuclear plant. The area was once designated for the region’s third nuclear power station, a project which was abandoned after the 2011 tsunami. Most of the power generated from the site, which is as big as 25 football fields, is used to make green hydrogen.

Japan is looking at green hydrogen as its gateway to achieving carbon-neutrality by 2050. The fuel produced in Fukushima has so far been used for small-scale projects, such as the Tokyo Olympics last year, as well as for refilling local fuel-cell cars.

“In the near future, much more renewable energy will come to the grid” in Japan, said Eiji Ohira of NEDO, the public research body managing the facility. The goal is to eventually use excess power from the national grid to scale up green hydrogen production.

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