Recovering from Fukushima: Japan’s Giant Floating Solar Farm

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Since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Japan has been reluctant to expand its nuclear energy programme. Instead, it has invested in the safer, renewable alternative of solar energy. Multinational company Kyocera has just begun building what will probably be the largest floating solar farm in the world.

The solar farm will be built on the Yamakura Dam, on a reservoir in Chiba in Japan’s southeast. Construction on the 180,000m2 structure is scheduled to be completed in 2018. By then, it will provide renewable energy to 5,000 homes in the area.

This power plant is not the first of its kind however. Japan’s limited land mass forces engineers to construct in a way that conserves space, paying particular attention to the shape of the environment, and how buildings will complement it. Though building on water is relatively dangerous and far more expensive than land-based projects, industry analysts agree that the projects are not difficult.

After 2011’s energy accident, many nuclear plants around Japan were decommissioned as a response to increasingly negative public perceptions about nuclear energy, made worse when nearly 300 bags of radioactive waste from the disaster were swept away into the nearby floodwaters.

These conditions made the country more dependent on fossil fuel imports than ever before. In 2014, its emissions rose to 1.41 billion metric tonnes of CO2 – the worst in its record. But the Japanese government is committed to reversing worldwide perceptions regarding its energy production by investing in renewable energies, particularly solar energy. Last year, Japan set a target of a 26 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

Japan’s floating solar farms are a symptom of a growing worldwide interest in less volatile, less harmful energy sources, and the spacial limitations in which they’re built encourage a design that’s less intrusive to the natural world. The initiative is a progressive and intuitive compromise for the disasters of the past.

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Photo Credit: Michael Mazengarb on Flickr.

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