Tokyo Electric Power Company Announces Brutally Small Solar Power Plant

tepco solar yamanashi japan photo

(Brutally honest photo from Tepco pdf)

Tepco, the power utility for some 20-30 million people here in the capital region of Japan, has announced that they will start a 10 megawatt solar power plant in Yamanashi prefecture. I thought their information was brutally honest, with a photo that is so very different from most of the PR we get these days about renewable energy. Yup, that's where they intend to put the panels. Smack in the middle of that field, near Komekurayama, a really tiny town. Sick of fancy, photoshopped images with sparkling sun rays beaming this way and that? Welcome to the nitty-gritty real-world. So, just how much is 10 megawatt anyway?10 megawatt of course isn't that much, yet most big solar projects announced so far are more fancy PR jobs than the real thing. Treehugger has covered a few of them, including the 550 megawatt plant planned for San Luis Obispo County, California. China has also announced a 1 gigawatt solar power plant and there is talk about a 5 gigawatt plant in India, but details are sketchy at best regarding these ambitious projects.

I admit, I had to check what all this "mega" and "giga" means:

Kilo 1,000
Mega 1,000,000
Giga 1,000,000,000
Tera 1,000,000,000,000
Peta 1,000,000,000,000,000
Exa 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
Zetta 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
Yotta 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

How much is a 10 megawatt solar power plant worth? Well, a regular coal plant is about 1 gigawatt. And the nuclear power plants in Hamaoka, Japan, that will be closed due to earthquake considerations are more than 1000 megawatt (that's a gigawatt). You can help me do the math, how many 10 megawatt solar power plants does it take to replace a 1970s nuclear reactor?

There are currently over 50 nuclear power reactors in Japan. They represent a total nuclear power capacity of 49.58 gigawatt, according to Citizens' Nuclear Information Center. "Megasolar" is the term Japanese media uses to describe the Yamanashi solar panel project. Seems we have a long way to go before we can create a society that is less reliant on massive energy use, yet just this week, the chief of the International Energy Association, Nobuo Tanaka, noted:

"If governments are spending ... for a stimulus package, why not spend it on renewables? It stimulates the economy short-term and in the long-term is sustainable. You kill two birds with one stone." Tanaka gears up for 'double challenge'

Written by Martin Frid at

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