Fukushima disaster paves way for new geothermal plants

Fukushima disaster paves way for new geothermal plants

From  in Tsuchiyu Onsen, Fukushima prefecture: “Before last year’s triple disaster in north-east Japan, Tsuchiyu Onsen drew tens of thousands of tourists in search of the recuperative qualities of its piping hot spring water.

“Almost 18 months after the nuclear accident at nearby FukushimaDaiichi power plant, that same natural resource is about to turn this spa resort into a trailblazer for the country’s push towards renewable energy.

“By spring 2014, Tsuchiyu, 9 miles (15km) from Fukushima, will be generating 250 kilowatts of electricity – about a quarter of the city’s total needs – at a geothermal plant hidden away in the surrounding mountains.

“The plant will be the first to be built inside a national park, a controversial move that only became possible after the environment ministry recently relaxed regulations on developing protected areas.

“If all goes to plan, the project could not only help the town become self-sufficient in power generation, but revive its role as a tourist destination after visitor numbers plummeted amid lingering fears over radiation. In the past, hot-spring operators have been among the fiercest opponents of geothermal energy, an obvious source of energy given Japan’s huge subterranean reserves of volcanic water.

“Many fear the plants would affect the flow and quality of the water, which is pumped up from the depths and then cooled for the benefit of Japan’s enthusiastic bathers.

“In Tsuchiyu, however, where half a dozen hotels remain closed with earthquake damage, spa owners are among the new geothermal generator’s keenest backers. ‘The plant won’t affect the water quality or the temperature,” said Kazuya Ikeda, general manager of the Tsuchiyu Onsen Tourist Association. ‘We have surveyed opinion in the town, and no one has raised any objections.’

“The move also makes economic sense. Under a new feed-in tariff system introduced last month, utilities are required to pay premium prices for renewable energy – 42 yen (34p) per kilowatt for geothermal power.”

Via EnergyDigger

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