You know the old saying that when the going gets tough, the tough get going? Well things have been really tough in Japan when it comes to energy, lately. The island nation lost all confidence in nuclear power after a tusanmi wiped out the Fukushima Da-ichi nuclear plant in March 2011, resulting in a nuclear emergency that required the evacuation of 140,000 people.
Prior to this disaster, Japan derived 30 per cent of its electricity from nuclear plants. Post disaster, they are almost nuclear free (although may start bringing some nuclear generation on line later this year) and are committed to increasing their mix of renewable energy from 9 per cent to 21 per cent by 2030. That is a very aggressive target.
They face an additional challenge in their shift to green energy in that battery and solar cell technologies require a great deal of rare earth metals. China currently controls the majority of the supply of these metals. Japan and China havent exactly been getting along lately and China has been accused of blocking shipments of these metals to Japan in the past.
In light of these challenges, Japan has gotten tough so to speak. They have reduced energy consumption by 15 per cent and they are innovating. Clear evidence of this innovation is the joint venture named the 4R Energy Corporation.
This joint venture between Sumitomo Corporation and Nissan Motor Co., has developed and installed the worlds first large-scale energy storage system which utilises used batteries collected from electric vehicles (EV).
This commercial scale storage system, built on Yume-shima Island, Osaka, began operating in February 2014.
Over the next three years, the system will measure the smoothing effect of energy output fluctuation from the nearby Hikari-no-mori, solar farm, and will aim to establish a large-scale power storage technology by safely and effectively utilizing the huge quantities of discarded used EV batteries which will become available in the future,
This is a very innovative project which solves two problems facing Japan the need for reliable, safe energy and the need to conserve the rare earth metals on which they depend.
Source: Solar Thermal Magazine
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