Fukushima, the area in Japan which felt the brunt of what is now one of the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, is now hopefully turning over a new leaf amidst the struggle to rebuild and start the process of renewing that which was destroyed by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. It is now giving renewable energy a chance. On April 1, Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has just launched a renewable energy research and development center in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture.
The Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute, as it is called, opens three years after the Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered catastrophic meltdowns after the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit east Japan in March 2011. Much of Japan took a negative view of nuclear power starting from that time, and it is a testament to that negativity that 48 of Japan’s commercial nuclear reactors are offline at the moment. In the meantime, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power have been in vogue in Japan. All of Japan’s renewable power sources are supplemental to fossil fuel-driven thermal energy at this point, but the situation may start to change.
Fukushima’s new R&D center will be at the center of a major project to develop the world’s most advanced energy technologies and make renewable energy Japan’s primary power source. Aside from the two new buildings, a solar power and wind power generation facilities also sit within the site. Major Japanese technology companies such as Hitachi, Sharp and Panasonic have jumped into the project and will conduct R&D at the center. The goal of the center is to develop state-of-the-art renewable technologies for implementation in various areas of the country. These new technologies will include new solar power innovations that improve energy conversion efficiency and a wind power generation system using laser lights — all of it exciting for Japan if all goes according to plan.