It Takes a Lot of Juice to Power Japan
In terms of population density, Japan is one of the most crowded countries in the world. Further complicating the situation is the fact that much of the land in this island nation is mountainous, making it unsuitable for large-scale building projects.
Substantial energy demands are standard for highly populous, high-tech nations, and Japan is no exception. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, the nation is looking for more sustainable ways to meet its power needs, but with buildable land as dear as it is, it’s difficult to justify dedicating large swaths to solar energy farms.
A Move Toward Sustainability
Japan has put some of its nuclear plants back online since 2011, but its energy production capacity is still hovering at around 10% of its pre-quake output. As a result, Japan has been forced to source much of its energy needs from imported liquid natural gas, which is expensive and less than desirable from an environmental standpoint.
Now Kyocera, the company behind many of the world’s extant floating solar installations (and maybe your mobile phone) has come up with a solution to Japan’s mounting energy needs: a giant, floating power plant.
Floating Power Plants: a Sensible Solution
While some critics cast aspersions on the aesthetics of the project, it’s difficult to dispute the economic logic. You can’t build homes or businesses on water, but you can build floating solar power plants. Big ones.
As an added bonus, the water cools the floating solar arrays, making them 11% more efficient than their land-based counterparts.
Best of all, the practice doesn’t seem to have any deleterious effects on the creatures that call the lake home. In fact, the solar panels actually curb evaporation and prevent algae growth, which can be a serious concern in agricultural areas.
Go Big or Go Home
While it’s not the first floating power plant Kyocera has deployed, the one currently under construction on the Yamakura Dam reservoir southeast of Tokyo will be the largest – not just in Japan, but worldwide, as well.
When complete, this new floating power station will generate nearly 14 megawatts of electricity during peak production hours – enough to power nearly 5,000 households and to prevent more than 7,000 tons of Co2 emissions each year. It will be comprised of more than 50,000 photovoltaic panels, with a surface area of more than 44 acres.
Built to Last
To make sure this latest project will stand up to the elements, Kyocera has brought in French firm Ciel et Terre, which has extensive experience engineering similar projects.
The plant will be supported by non-metallic, recyclable polyethylene that is both corrosion and UV-resistant. The facility will be securely anchored to the bottom of the reservoir, and its makers are confident that it will stand up to Japan’s yearly typhoons.
Water + Electricity?
Skeptics might question the wisdom of mixing water and electricity in this manner, but Kyocera has already constructed three floating solar farms, with no serious issues to report.
Though the soon-to-be-completed solar plant may be small compared to its land-based counterparts, it’s an impressive feat nonetheless, and as a proof of concept for places where space is at a premium, it’s an important achievement.
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[Photo via: Cleantechnica]