Japanese solar grid

After Fukushima, Japan is now serious about solar power. From Miyama, Fukuoka (pictured), in the south of Honshu to northerly Hokkaido, Japan is building solar power plants, and now needs to upgrade its grid. Rooftop solar doesn’t need as many grid changes, since it delivers onsite at peak load. Hey, here’s an idea: solar panels on unused industrial park areas!

Yvonne Chang wrote for National Geographic 14 August 2013, Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up,

Japan’s renewable energy incentive law has spurred construction of so many photovoltaic farms like this one, in Miyama, that the nation is expected to be the world’s leading solar energy market this year. But Japan must upgrade its system for delivering electricity.
Photograph from Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images
A new renewable energy incentive program has Japan on track to become the world’s leading market for solar energy, leaping past China and Germany, with Hokkaido at the forefront of the sun power rush. In a densely populated nation hungry for alternative energy, Hokkaido is an obvious choice to host projects, because of the availability of relatively large patches of inexpensive land. Unused industrial park areas, idle land inside a motor race circuit, a former horse ranch—all are being converted to solar farms. (See related, ” Pictures: A New Hub for Solar Tech Blooms in Japan .”)

But there’s a problem with this boom in Japan’s north. Although one-quarter of the largest solar projects approved under Japan’s new renewables policy are located in Hokkaido, the island accounts for less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity demand. Experts say Japan will need to act quickly to make sure the power generated in Hokkaido flows to where it is needed. And that means modernizing a grid that currently doesn’t have capacity for all the projects proposed, installing a giant battery—planned to be the world’s largest—to store power when the sun isn’t shining, and ensuring connections so power can flow across the island nation. (See related, ” In Japan, Solar Panels Aid in Tsunami Rebuilding .”)

Turning to Renewables

Japan historically has had no fossil energy sources of its own; it powered much of its economic growth over the past few generations with homegrown nuclear energy. At the start of 2011, more than 50 reactors provided Japan with 30 percent of its electricity, and the plan was to increase that share to 50 percent. That scenario was upended on March 11, 2011, when the most powerful earthquake ever to shake Japan touched off a tsunami that breached the defenses of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the east coast. (See related, ” One Year After Fukushima, Japan Faces Shortages of Energy, Trust .”)

The second-worst nuclear energy accident in history displaced 70,000 people and saddled the nation with a long and difficult cleanup. (See Pictures: The Nuclear Cleanup Struggle at Fukushima .”) The scope of the disaster was driven home for the Japanese people in recent weeks, when the plant operator acknowledged that it has been unable to stanch the daily flow of tens of thousands of gallons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. (See related, ” Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Leak: What You Should Know .”)

Due to opposition from local officials, all but two of Japan’s nuclear power plants are now idle. And although Prime Minister Shinzo Abe supports a nuclear restart, his government also is addressing Japan’s needs by administering a renewable energy incentive policy that went into effect last year before he took office: a generous “feed-in” tariff.

Second worst? That’s wishful thinking. But at least Fukushima has even TEPCO building solar and wind arrays.

Much more in the article.