Since the devastating earthquake that critically damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan’s taste for nuclear power has been dramatically reduced. But does the country have enough resources to operate without nuclear? Plans for geothermal power plants have been drawn up to include building in the Bandai-Asahi National Park, which may have geothermal potential as a result of the active volcanoes existing in the area. Some local businesses are hampering the efforts of developers to drill in the area, but the fact that renewable energy is being considered as a replacement for nuclear is certainly a good thing.
Still, working in the clean energy field, I have become aware of the fact that renewable energy currently has nowhere near the energy capacity of traditional forms of energy, such as nuclear and fossil fuels. For example, the embattled new geothermal power plants to be built in the Bandai-Asahi National Park will generate 270 megawatts, but the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor they are being built to replace generated 4,700 megawatts. It is going to take a huge investment in geothermal, and other renewable energy resources, to offset even just one nuclear reactor.
The scale of the renewable energy projects that will be able to supply Japan with enough energy without using nuclear is going to need to be huge. The new geothermal projects in the Bandai-Asahi National Park are being subjected to an old opponent to renewable energy: NIMBY. For those unfamiliar with NIMBY, it stands for Not In My Backyard. Hot springs resort owners in the area see the development of geothermal energy as a threat to their well-being, as a result they are protesting their construction. One of the most important aspects of bringing more renewable energy into the world power portfolio is for people to start saying yes to new projects. In order to convert to sustainable forms of energy, renewable energy projects are going to need to be large and intrusive – this is just something people are going to have to accept.
Believing we can convert to sustainable energy without dealing with large-scale generation sites is counter-productive.