After Fukushima, Japan Reconsiders Geothermal Power
Today it was discovered that damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant was much worse than expected, and water is leaking out of the No. 1 reactor. This will likely upset officials’ six month timeline for bringing the plant under control.
Japan ranks eighth in the world for installed geothermal capacity with about 540 MW already producing power and third for untapped potential, according to the 2010 Geothermal Congress at Bali, Indonesia.
Currently, Japan is home to 18 geothermal power plants, eight of which are located in the Sendai region, which was severely affected by the quake and tsunami. Despite their close proximity, media reports say only four of the plants experienced any interruption in operation during the tsunami, and it was quickly rectified.
Geothermal has an average capacity factor (how often the power plant runs) of about 73 percent though some have been recorded as high as 98 percent. And as Care2′s Jasmine Greene reports, it’s not just the capacity factor that makes geothermal very attractive, but the fact that this energy source alone could potentially power the entire world.
Another attractive quality of geothermal is its lack of risk to public safety.
“If there is a major natural disaster, the main damage (to geothermal plants) will be to the pipelines carrying hot water,” D. Chandrasekharam, an earth sciences professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay told Renewable Energy World. “That’s much easier to control than radiation.”
Despite its potential for producing clean energy, geothermal has been approached cautiously by Japanese industry. One reason for this is that hot springs are considered sacred by the culture, and people don’t like to see them exploited.
Image Credit: Flickr - mdid