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Japan Sees Rise in Solar Energy Post-Fukushima

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Jun 11, 2013 04:32 PM EDT
A photographer takes a picture of solar panels on the roof of the Palexpo Exhibition Center in Geneva, Switzerland, October 16, 2012.
In the wake of the Fukushima incident, Japan began rethink its reliance on nuclear power and since then the country has seen a boom in the use of renewable energy, according to Fortune, which said the country has seen a meteoric rise in the use of renewable sources of energy. (Photo : Reuters)

In the wake of the Fukushima incident, Japan began rethink its reliance on nuclear power and since then the country has seen a boom in the use of renewable energy, according to Fortune, which said the country has seen a meteoric rise in the use of renewable sources of energy.

Japan in on track to become one of the largest markets for solar energy, second only to China.

Fortune reported that gigawatt energy from solar installations in Japan jumped 270 percent in the first quarter of 2013. At that pace, the report said, the country will install enough solar panels to equal the capacity of seven nuclear reactors.

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"Japan is forecast to install $20 billion worth of [photovoltaic] systems in 2013, up 82 percent from $11 billion in 2012," the energy analysis group IHS told Fortune.

Such growth will put Japan at the top of the photovoltaics (PV) market in terms of revenue this year, besting Germany in sales. The global market for solar panels, by comparison, is only expected to see four percent growth.

The rise in solar power in Japan is being attributed to government incentives to the producers of renewable energy sources and rules requiring public power utilities to buy alternative power at above-market rates. While Japan is not extraordinarily sunny, its mountainous geography makes wind farms less than ideal. Solar accounted for 94 percent of all applications for clean energy tariffs since July, Fortune reported. But Japan has also long made use of geothermal and hydroelectric power.

 "How long the boom in solar can last in Japan is hard to tell, but as land runs out, there will be slowdown," said Hisashi Hoshi of the Institute of Energy Economics.

"Of course there are still the rooftops to exploit as mobile carrier Softbank is doing. It's renting rooftops for solar -- a very smart and interesting business model. Perhaps, unlike previous attempts to deregulate Japan's electric utility industry, this should be a success."

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