Is Japan’s Offshore Solar Power Plant the Future of Renewable Energy?

Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant. (KYOCERA Corporation)

The densely populated nation has found a new way to harness the power of the sun

By Vicky Gan

Across Japan, 50 nuclear power plants sit idle, shut down in the aftermath of  the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Nobody is certain when government  inspectors will certify that the plants are safe enough to be brought back  online. Anti-nuclear activists point to this energy crisis as evidence that  Japan needs to rely more on renewables. One think tank has calculated that a  national solar power initiative could generate electricity equivalent to ten  nuclear plants. But skeptics have asked where, in their crowded mountainous  country, they could construct all those solar panels.

One solution was unveiled this past November, when Japan flipped the switch  on its largest solar power plant to date, built offshore on reclaimed land  jutting into the cerulean waters of Kagoshima Bay. The Kyocera Corporation’s  Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant is as potent as it is picturesque,  generating enough electricity to power roughly 22,000 homes.

Other densely populated countries, notably in Asia, are also beginning to  look seaward. In Singapore, the Norwegian energy consultancy firm DNV recently  debuted a solar island concept called SUNdy, which links 4,200 solar panels  into  a stadium-size hexagonal array that floats on the ocean’s surface.

Meanwhile, the Shimizu Corporation has presented plans for the ultimate  offshore power plant: solar panels encircling the Moon’s equator that would  transmit energy to Earth via microwaves and lasers. The company claims this  project could provide up to 13,000 terawatts of electricity per year—more than  three times what the U.S. produces. And as an added bonus, nobody would ever  have to worry about cloudy days.

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