Government / Industry

Japan Considers Solar Power Pull-Back

Japan Considers Solar Power Pull-Back

Japan has been experiencing a solar energy boom in recent years but rapid expansion has left utilities claiming they’re unable to accept and regulate the amount of sources that are generating power only when the sun is shining.

Five of the nation’s largest utilities have begun restricting access of recently completed solar farms to their power grids.

After several nuclear shutdowns after the Fukushima reactor meltdown crisis a few years ago, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has offered huge incentives for solar energy. This initiative has aided Japan in becoming the second biggest market for photovoltaic panels, providing alternate relief after both Germany and Spain, former leaders in solar energy, have seen a decrease in the industry.

Japan’s trade ministry proposed plans for about 72 gigawatts of renewable energy projects since 2012. The country constructed almost 7.1 gigawatts of solar capacity last year; more than what currently exists in both Spain, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. To give scale, a gigawatt is nearly the size of a nuclear reactor.

“Everyone was entering the solar market because it was lucrative, and that has strained the market,” said Yutaka Miki, a clean energy scientist at the Japan research Institute. Japan’s investment in the technology has tripled to $29.6 billion from 2010 to 2013.

Wind power, which accounts for about 1.7 percent of all capacity since 2012, could benefit from bottlenecks in connecting solar plants in the area. After the quick expansion of solar, more effort from governments to increase wind, namely offshore wind, is a likely possibility.

“Plans need to be made to slow down solar, but any measure require thorough reviews and explanations,” said Mika Ohbayashi, director of Japan’s Renewable Energy Foundation, a group set up by Softbank founder Masayoshi Son in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster aimed at promoting clean and renewable energy.

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