The First 3290% Energy Self-Sufficient Town In Japan


Poster welcoming visitors to Hachouboru Geothermal Center, image from biki8

Yanaizu Town, Kawanuma District, Fukushima Prefecture is rural-at-best and about as far away as you can get from the big cities. The town recently made the news when Chiba University professor Hidefumi Kurasaka announced his list of Japan's most self-sufficient places.

Yanaizu tops the list at a fantastic 3290%, due to its geothermal applications. According to Kurasaka-sensei, a zone where all energy requirements can be met by renewable, natural energy created within that zone can be called self-sufficient if the supply rate is more than 100%. Geothermal power plants are pretty common here due to the volcanic activity, just like in parts of Alaska and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
Earlier this year, Nikkei, the business daily reported that Mitsubishi Materials Corp, J-Power, Nittetsu Mining Co Ltd and Kyushu Electric Power Co will build new geothermal powerplants, starting in 2009, with government support. Japan has 18 major geothermal power stations in operation, but their aggregate output accounts for only around 0.2-0.3 percent of electricity generated here, according to Reuters.

Japan ranks 6th after the US, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico and Italy in terms of global geothermal electricity capacity, so this is an area where there is a lot of excitement right now. Producing some 535.2 MW today, experts agree that Japan can do a lot better. Source: GHC Bulletin (pdf)


Photo of a modern hydro-power plant based on an ancient design, from gtknj at Flickr

70% of the zones on the self-sufficiency list have small-scale hydroelectric plants (in-stream units under 10MW), signifying just how well suited the geography in Japan is for small-scale hydroelectric generation. We have mentioned previously how one town in Kochi decided to go micro-hydro and install small power plants. They found that it took some effort, but after town meetings and a focus on education, people liked the idea of self-sufficiency and the environmental benefits. In Kochi the town found that linking energy education to issues such as global warming and the need to reduce CO2 emissions made a lot of sense to people.

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