As Japan continues to look for viable alternatives to its mothballed nuclear reactors, Chuo Electric Power Co. is set to open Japan’s first new geothermal power project in 15 years. The new geothermal plant is situated on Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, in Kumamoto Prefecture, a region known for its natural hot springs and volcanic activity. The project is apparently generating momentum in the power industry, opening up opportunities for similar projects to push forward.
Chuo Electric had set up a separate company to focus on geothermal power generation, and the company is planning to open five new plants over the next five years. The new plant – the first one to go online in Japan since 1999 – has set off a flurry of other geothermal projects across the country, with companies looking to open similar plants from northernmost Hokkaido to southern Kyushu. These companies include mainstream electronics and technology giant Toshiba and Orix, who set up a joint geothermal power generation company last November. Their target is to open a plant in a hot spring area in Gifu prefecture next year.
Japan is famously one of the world’s most seismically active nations, and there is an abundance of geothermal power sources. It is estimated that the country should be able to generate as much as 23 million kilowatts of energy, the third largest in the world after the United States and Indonesia. It is no surprise then that the Japanese government, pressured by the public to keep the nuclear power option mothballed permanently, is now monitoring potential geothermal power projects. Media reports say that there could be more than 60 spots around the country that are currently being tapped by businesses and officials as possible sites for 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. “Even though its contribution to Japan’s electric demands may be very small, it is valuable if it helps the understanding and familiarity of large size geothermal plants which are currently undergoing exploration and development, ” he said.
[via The Telegraph]