Posted: 25 Sep 2011 02:41 PM PDT
Only about 16% of Japan’s electricity is produced domestically, but Japan is located on the ring of fire and is rated as the third most geologically active country in the world. This threatens nuclear power with earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions, but is ideal for geothermal energy development. Japan Geothermal Developer's Council has announced that six Tohoku prefectures could develop a generating capacity of 170 MW and a total of 740 MW in those prefectures, if including sites in national parks, where geothermal plants are presently restricted.
The recent massive earthquake in Japan caused 6800 MW of electricity to go offline. It is estimated that conventional geothermal in Japan may have a combined capacity for 85,000 MW, more than enough to entirely replace its nuclear energy power plants.
“Conventional geothermal” energy development uses volcanically active areas of the Earth to produce steam for a conventionally operated thermal power plant (and uses the thermodynamic Rankine cycle). Both nuclear energy and geothermal energy currently have the highest capacity factor, around 90%, making them good sources of baseload power. CleanTechnica’s Andrew Burger says:
Geothermal energy can also be developed with the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) and can then operate at lower differences in temperatures. This is sometimes called “Dry Well Geothermal” because it is proposed for dry oil wells. This type only needs warmer underground temperatures and may use wells 2,000 to 3,000 feet deep. This type is available even in areas that are not volcanically active.
The last type of “geothermal” is used with heat pumps to tap the relatively constant ground temperatures for heating and cooling. This type might use ponds, 6′- to 10′-deep surface loops or wells 200 to 300′ deep. Our planet’s surface heat would be 20 to 30 degrees cooler if it were not for the sun heating the surface. To some extent, this type of “geothermal” is a solar application.
Geothermal in Japan
Japan is heavily dependent upon imports for most of its electrical needs. It is not surprising that nuclear energy was such an attractive option. Like solar and nuclear energy, geothermal has a high initial cost but much lower operating costs.
Geothermal Research Society of Japan provides an 80-year timeline of geothermal development in Japan, but there is only about 530 MW of geothermal energy presently developed. Presently, development is a long and complex process that can take 5 to 10 years. In part, this may be because geothermal energy is viewed as a natural resource that feeds their hot spring resorts (onsens) rather than primarily as a renewable energy resource.
As Japan begins to “…aim for a society that does not depend on nuclear power generation" by phasing out such energy "systematically and in stages" (- Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan), geothermal seems like a great option for new electricity generation. Thus, it is not surprising that
Careful legislationwill be required to continue to streamline the development process while maintaining the natural beauty of Japan.
Posted: 25 Sep 2011 07:17 AM PDT
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is going to release a report on 2010 growth of the small wind turbine market soon, the AWEA 2010 U.S. Small Wind Turbine Market Report. I got to take a sneak peak at some of the data and charts and, with permission, am sharing a few key points and a couple graphs with you here on CleanTechnica. Check out the following and let us know what you think about the small wind turbine market and its strong growth.
More to come when AWEA releases the full report, but it seems clear that small wind turbines are growing in popularity and sales, and that they are creating jobs for numerous Americans today.
Images via AWEA
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