Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture, the scene of the world’s most recent nuclear disasters in 2011, will transform its now unusable agricultural land into wind and solar farms, as part of a $US2.7 billion renewable energy rebirth.
The Nikkei reports that the federal government-backed project includes plans for 11 solar farms and 10 wind farms with a total capacity of 600MW, scheduled for completion by March 2024.
An 80km long grid connection is also planned for construction, to connect the renewables hub with the network of Tokyo Electric Power Co – a task that is separately costed at roughly ¥29 billion ($A388 million).
The electricity generated will be sent to the Tokyo metropolitan area – as it was by Tepco before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed its Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.
The Fukushima government has said it expects the new renewables hub to provide 13-14 percent of Japan’s national energy mix by 2030.
According to Bloomberg, Fukushima’s energy minister, Masashi Takeuchi, said the first project would likely be a 20MW solar farm in Minamisoma city in the northern part of the prefecture.
He said that building wind and solar farms on agricultural land that had been tainted by radiation from the nuclear plant meltdown would help rejuvenate the area.
“Fukushima is the third largest prefecture in Japan and has diverse resources (solar, wind power, geothermal power, water resources, forest resources, etc.) and has great potential for introducing renewable energy,” the prefecture government said.
The cost of the renewables transformation, which is expected to kick off in January 2020, is reportedly being underwritten by a group of financiers including the government-owned Development Bank of Japan and private lender Mizuho Bank.
The news puts into action plans the Fukushima government has been working on since the disaster hit, underscored by its 2014 pledge to take the prefecture to 100 per cent renewables by 2040.
It also drives another nail into the coffin for nuclear energy, globally, which – quite apart from concerns around accidental fallout, radiation contamination and legacy waste disposal – is increasingly being seen as too costly and time consuming to build.
Even Tepco – which is Japan’s biggest utility – has made a major pivot away from nuclear, last year revealing plans to develop up to 7GW of new renewable energy capacity, in a bid to re-gain “the competitive advantage.”
Confoundingly, this has not stopped the Australian federal government from going down the path of a parliamentary inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear energy in Australia.
As IEEFA noted in its submission to that inquiry, nuclear power plants in the US, Finland and UK have suffered extreme time and cost blowouts, while Japan’s Fukushima has been landed with a $US200 billion clean-up bill.