Report from the Field: Japan Emerging as a Solar Power House

This is the first in a series of posts from Martin Rosenberg, editor-in-chief at EnergyBiz Magazine, as he travels to Japan with the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). This series of posts are cross-posted from Rosenberg's blog at EnergyBlogs.com

SEPA travels to Japan for a first-hand look at their solar power industry

Leon Roose will be there. He is with the Hawaiian Electric Co.

So will Sharon Staz, with Kennebunk Light & Power.

SEPA has assembled a diverse cluster of utility industry executives from Hawaii to Maine and points in between to head to Japan this week for its third annual mission to study what foreign countries have been able to do deploying solar. The implication is that the United States has some catch up.

Previous missions were in 2008 to Germany and last year to Spain. Your faithful blogger, also employed as editor-in-chief of EnergyBiz magazine was the sole journalist SEPA invited to tag along this year.

Here is what Julia Hamm, the head of the Solar Electric Power Association, has to say about the mission, which has 21 participants:
During our time in Japan, the utility participants will engage in fruitful dialog with their Japanese utility counterparts, government officials and solar industry representatives as well as see first-hand examples of successful solar integration into the power grid. We expect to come back with an in-depth understanding of how Japan has developed a sustainable solar market and how they are technically preparing for even greater solar integration in the future.”

In some briefing sessions we held prior to departure I learned some fascinating tidbits that I will be checking out on the ground in Japan. One is that 70 percent of manufactured housing now being built in Japan is equipped with solar electric power equipment. That represents a hefty share of new housing in the country.

As you read this, we probably have just trooped through the offices of NEDO – The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. That is Japan’s equivalent of our nifty National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo.

Please stay blogged in in coming days as I try to give you a bird’s eye view of some of the more intriguing things we are learning about solar power and renewables in one of the most advanced economies in the world.

One thing I will be watching out for is insight on the following question:
How is it that a country with soaring government deficits and mired in a decades-long economic slump has achieved such stellar results with solar?

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