Members of the media and Tokyo Electric Power Co. inside the plant that was partially destroyed in the 2011 tsunami. Image: REUTERS/Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool
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- Tsunami caused triple reactor meltdown in 2011 .
- Investors plan 11 solar and 10 wind farms on the abandoned site.
- Renewable energy hub to supply electricity to the Tokyo metropolitan area.
- The $2.75 billion project makes use of contaminated land that can no longer be used for farming.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake that rocked northeastern Japan in 2011 caused a tsunami that devastated both the Fukushima nuclear plant and the lives of nearby residents, who were evacuated from a 30-km exclusion zone that’s still in force.
That abandoned site is now being regenerated and turned into a hub for renewable energy.
A group of investors is converting contaminated mountainous areas and former farmland that can no longer be used to grow crops or raise livestock into 11 solar power plants and 10 wind farms.
Operating at full capacity, the hub will generate 600 megawatts of power – about two-thirds the output of a single nuclear reactor.
With costs estimated at more than $2.75 billion, the new plants will supply electricity to the Tokyo metropolitan area, connecting to the city’s power network through a still-to-be-constructed 80km-wide grid within Fukushima.
A fresh start
Fukushima aims to become an international centre for renewable energy. The prefecture has set a target of meeting 100% of its energy needs from renewables by 2040.
A mixture of solar, wind and biomass, with small amounts of geothermal and small-scale hydro power, was generating nearly 1.4 gigawatts of energy for Fukushima prefecture by 2017, according to the Japan Times.
What's the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?
Japan’s energy mix remains heavily reliant on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas. Solar power generates just 6% of the nation’s electricity, while wind accounts for less than 1%. But there are signs of change, as major corporations and energy traders begin to embrace cleaner energy, according to BloombergNEF.
The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2019 reports strong growth in the deployment of renewables over the past decade, thanks in part to the falling prices of solar energy and wind power.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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