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article imageFirst geothermal power plant in 15 years to go online in Japan

By Karen Graham     Mar 18, 2014 in Business
Japan has been actively seeking alternative energy sources since the Fukushima Daiachii disaster. With the public's resistance to reopening nuclear power plants, utilizing the country's many naturally occurring hot springs may be the answer.
Chuo Electric Power Company of Japan is set to open the nation's first geothermal power plant in 15 years. Situated on the southern island of Kyushu, in Kumamoto Prefecture, the region is famous for its volcanic activity and natural hot springs.
Chou Electric has set up a separate company, dedicated to geothermal power generation, and has plans to open an additional five plants over the next five years. The project has generated a considerable amount of interest, opening up opportunities for similar projects.
The Kyushu project has given birth to geothermal projects from northernmost Hokkaido to southern Kyushu. Electronics and technology giant, Toshiba, and Orix, a finance and leasing firm, set up a joint geothermal power generation company last November, and plan on opening their first power project in a hot spring area in Gifu prefecture next year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would like to get the country's 50 nuclear reactors back online as soon as possible because of the demand from industry and the public for crude oil and liquefied natural gas, all of which have to be imported. Energy demands have caused the annual deficit to increase to 11.47 trillion yen ($112.07 billion), up 65.3 percent from 2012. But the Fukushima disaster is still too fresh in people's minds, and there has been very little support for putting any of the mothballed power stations online.
The government has been studying the geothermal power boom, and with the recent reports of over 60 possible sites around the country, they have been targeted by businesses and the government as potential areas for geothermal plants. “It is much better for nations to have their own energy resources in terms of national security, and geothermal is a domestic and abundant energy source in Japan,” Masaho Adachi, geothermal energy expert and former chairman of Japan Geothermal Developers Council told the Telegraph several days ago.
Japan is the most seismically active country in the world, and its geothermal resources are estimated to be capable of producing as much as 23 million kilowatts of energy, the third largest amount in the world, next to the United States and Indonesia. But currently, less than two percent of this power generation is being used, even though they have the technology.
The reason for this is the strong protective feelings the public has always had for their hot spring industries and its associated tourism. But since the Fukushima disaster, the public's mood has been changing, and opposition has lessened. This has allowed companies to explore geothermal power more actively. It has helped, too, that companies have been keeping the size of the plants small, and working with the local communities,
More about geothermal energy, Alternative energy, Hot springs, Japan, fukushima disaster
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