Monthly Archives: July 2012
This nice story by Michael Hoffman in the Media ( ) section of the Japan Times takes a look at a hamlet that went solar. The main story is that an 11 household hamlet in Hyogo found 21 million yen in their 町内会 account, so decided to buy enough panels to produce the equivalent of the electricity consumption of these 11 homes. The writer is translating (and embellishing it here and there) the contents of an article in Josei Seven (thus the Media section) where is says:
Sanno is the first municipality in Japan to produce all its own electricity from renewable energy — a splendid declaration of independence while the nation wallows in nuclear angst, indecision and inertia.
Are 11 houses a municipality? It’s not a declaration of independence as they are still on the grid – if anything it’s a declaration of dependence on the solar subsidy. As far as I am aware, the current 21 yen per kilowatt over retail price is guaranteed for the full 20 years for installations of this type (domestic have a 10 year guarantee), so they are, I suppose, independent from government fiddling with the solar subsidy, as they surely will have to do in a few years.
Interestingly enough, though, the solar initiative originally had little to do with nuclear fears.
The intention was not to protest the government’s dull unresponsiveness in the wake of one of the world’s worst peacetime catastrophes of modern times, but, intentional or not, the protest sounds loud and clear.
So which is it? Little to do or nothing to do with nuclear fears? How is it a protest? It seems just like a cold, calculated business move, and I salute the old codgers for taking advantage of the over-generous buy-back scheme.
The writer then goes on to express his own anti-nuclear opinion:
The report appeared within days of Kepco’s dubious reactivation of Reactor No. 3 at Oi.
What’s a "dubious reactivation"? If there is dubiousness, it came from the government decision, Kepco were just following the order they had hoped to receive.
BTW, next year I am on our apartment block’s union committee, and I’ll be suggesting we bung up a few solar panels on our roof by investing our management fees for a few years in that rather than buying the reliable but boring savings bonds we currently do.
Here’s a surprising opinion poll from NHK, on the question of the government energy policy, and whether to have 0%, 15% or 20%-25% nuclear power by 2030. 0% gets 34%, 15% gets 40%, and 20%-25% gets 12%. Further questions included only 8% evaluating the government decision to restart Ooi power station as very high, 34% evaluating it to some degree high , 29% evaluating it poorly, and 23% very poorly. Next, 25% could agree with turning reactors deemed safe back on, 27% oppose, and 43% cannot say.
As a bonus question, people were asked what party would be best to govern Japan; 4% selected a DPJ-led government, 12% LDP-led, 21% a grand DPJ-LDP coalition, and 49% wanted a rebalancing of political power, which probably mainly refers to Hashimoto’s One Osaka and similar parties. The next election (perhaps in October or November) looks like it will be fun…
Continuing this theme, on NHK tonight they had a story about the start of the citizens’ debates into the future energy policy. The big news was that in the three or four that took place over the weekend, on the "randomly selected" panel of initial speakers, there was a suspiciously-high percentage of people employed by the local electricity company (although they were quick to stress they were only talking personally…) and other nuclear power promotional quangos.
NHK mentioned that these meeting were organised by a major media-related company, which I suspect was code for Dentsu. Goodness only knows what they were thinking – I cannot really imagine a larger red rag to a bull than fixing these governmental meetings.
I’ve not had a chance to read any of it yet, but just to collect things in a separate thread, here is the home page:
I gather that Kan doesn’t quite get nominated for sainthood within the pages. I never got the love for him either – regardless of whether or not people think he took charge, his other actions, such as taking almost two months to visit the disaster areas and not getting anything moving bar setting up a million and one committees, were enough to convince me of his uselessness.
Following on from last night’s post, I checked the data in this story.
The first of two phases of the overall project sees 8,680 Kyocera modules equaling approximately 2.1MW of solar power installed in the southern part of Kyoto City, Japan. This will generate roughly 2.1GWh of electricity annually, which is enough to supply power for approximately 580 households.
A quick Google tells me that the 2.1MW should be written as 2.1MWp, with the ‘p’ for ‘peak’, and a calculation tells me that 2.1GWh/y from 2.1MW works out at an effective 2.7 hours a day, or a perhaps easier to understand form is to state the output as 5.8MWh/day. Phase two will double the size, so provide the power for 1,160 households, or almost 0.2% of the households in Kyoto City. At that size it feels more like a PR exercise and a technology demonstration than a serious attempt to supply renewable power.
On the other hand, SB Energy Corp will see an income of 42 yen * 5,800 kWh * 2 or just under half a million yen per day, or just over 175 million yen per year. Google suggests a US retail price of around $400 per panel, so even at retail prices, this park might cost around 550 million yen to kit out, thus even allowing for all the other costs and variables, I would hazard a guess that it will be significantly less than 10 years to pay back the investment.
Note that according to the feed-in tariff law, this rate is guaranteed (or can it be renegotiated?) to last 20 years for large-scale 10kW+ plants, but only 10 years for smaller domestic-scale production. Furthermore, large plants get paid even for electricity they use to run the installation; domestic owners only get paid for the excess they send back to the grid. Now I think about it, I wonder if SoftBank might plonk a data centre or a mobile transmitter on site and get paid to run it?
Looking at Komekurayama on the rather sunny 29th of June, it has a peak rating of 13MW judging by the left-hand legend, and generated 65.890MWh that day, which works out at a respectable effective 5 hours per day of output. However, the rather wet 1st of July managed just 11.280MWh, or the equivalent of a mere 52 minutes of peak output.
PS: I wonder how the reaction will be if/when one of these projects uses Chinese panels?
PPS: I’ll have to do a post to clarify my stance, but I reckon it’s similar to many people here; nukes are needed for now at least, financially-viable renewables are good, as is separating generation and transmission, and last but not least a Sir John Harvey-Jones or Gordon Ramsay needs to rampage through KEPCO, TEPCO and the rest with a very sharp axe!
The government estimates the power provided by renewable energy this year in Japan will attain 2,500 megawatts, the equivalent of two medium-sized nuclear reactors.
A quick Google will tell the reader that that is just a wee bit more than Oi 3 and 4’s nominal rating, but what is missing, of course, is a time element. That nuclear station can pump out 2 GW day in day out, but what does that 2,500 MW figure represent? The peak maximum, average per day, maximum rating for everything all added together, or what?
Next, Softbank’s Mr Son gushes:
“Ultimately, if you take the long view, renewable energy will have the cheapest power generation costs,” said Mr. Son, saying that a solar or wind power plant can pay off its set-up expenses within 20 years, and after that it has no resource costs.
Is that 20 year pay-off calculated including the feed-in tariff at current levels? Countries more into renewables than Japan (UK and Holland are two I recently read about) are busy cutting back their feed-in tariffs, and a look around the web suggests that solar panels have a life of 20 to 40 years, and wind turbines 20 to 30, and of course wind turbines in particular need ongoing maintenance, and Holland is finding that offshore turbines are quite expensive to service and maintain in the salty environment.
Finally, in a move designed to get the conspiracy theorists all a-lather, a thermal power station near Himeji croaks:
The campaign took on greater urgency on Monday when Kansai Electric Power, whose service area is being asked to cut usage by 15 percent, said they had suspended operation at a thermal power plant in Himeji, western Japan, because of a steam leakage.
News reports said it would take about 10 days before power generation at the plant could be brought back online, with the outage expected to raise estimated power demand in the region from 81 percent of capacity to 86 percent.
Just a wee bit of a trolling headline for an exceptionally humid Kansai day.
Here’s an interesting figure or two from WSJ Real Time Japan:
But scrapping reactors is costly. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, if Japan abandons nuclear power now, utilities would need to register ¥4.4 trillion in one-off costs for decommissioning and asset write-offs. They will also face ¥3.1 trillion in additional fossil-fuel costs every year.
As of the end of March, the nation’s 10 utilities had a combined net worth of only ¥5.7 trillion. An immediate exit from nuclear power would leave four of them insolvent — Tepco, Tohoku Electric Power Co., Hokkaido Electric and Japan Atomic Power, METI said.
Now for the reality. The Yomiuri Shimbun conducted a poll of the six prefectures in the Kinki region (served by the Oi nuclear power plants) two weeks ago asking whether people approved or disapproved of the resumption of nuclear power generation.
Here are the results:
The difference was even greater in Osaka Prefecture: 52% in favor vs. 39% against. Shiga was the only thumbs-down prefecture, and the Kyoto results were a rough 50%-50% split.
I don’t have the original question, however.
This post has been sponsored by KEPCO.