Geothermal to the rescue in Japan ?  

Posted by Big Gav in , , ,

The Climate Spectator has an article pointing out the Japanese have a good alternative to their dangerous nuclear power facilities - geothermal power - Geothermal to the rescue in Japan?.

Japan is sitting on enough untapped geothermal power to replace all its planned nuclear stations over the next decade.

But, battling to control its crippled Fukushima nuclear complex, and planning to build 13 more nuclear power stations, Japan has no plans to harness its estimated 23.5 gigawatts (GW) in geothermal potential – other than to develop hot springs.

Geothermal energy, which in Asia struggles under limited government and funding support, is likely to attract interest as investors rethink the outlook for nuclear power following the crisis at Fukushima.

Straddled along the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of seismic activity, Asia's geothermal reservoirs are among the world's largest. Indonesia alone holds 40 per cent of the world's total reserves, but less than 4 per cent is being developed, leaving the sector wide open for growth.

Asia's leading, fast-growth economies have relied on nuclear power to feed their insatiable energy demands. About 112 nuclear power reactors run in six countries in Asia, and more than 264 are planned for construction, according to the London-headquartered World Nuclear Association.

As public scrutiny of the nuclear industry intensifies, Asian governments will come under pressure to reduce nuclear power's share in the energy mix, and allow for safer sources of clean energy to fill the gap.

"The Japanese will be reviewing their nuclear capacity and (so will) many other places in the world," said Jeffrey Higgs, managing director at Hong Kong-based asset management firm Environmental Investment Services Asia.

"This will refocus attention on alternative energy. Others will begin to look at geothermal as an alternative; the safest, cleanest of all energy sources," Higgs said.

And that could benefit Japanese manufacturers more than most.

Mitsubishi Corp, Toshiba Corp and Fuji Electric are leaders in the geothermal equipment industry, supplying nearly 70 per cent of all steam turbines and power gear at geothermal plants worldwide.

Other companies that could see a pick-up in business include Philippines' Energy Development Corp, a geothermal steamfield operator, and Australia's Panax Geothermal.

New Zealand's Contact Energy, Australia's Origin Energy and Japan's Idemitsu Kosan own assets in the sector.

Geothermal energy, which feeds on heat from the earth's core to release steam from underground reservoirs, could be a viable replacement for some of the world's nuclear power, experts said.

It's a steady source of power and, unlike solar or wind, is unaffected by unpredictable weather patterns.

The long-term cost of geothermal power, depending on geological conditions, could be less than coal. Once reserves are confirmed and a power plant built, the steam that fuels turbines at the plant is virtually free.

In Japan, which ranks third behind the United States and Indonesia in geothermal potential, according to a Citigroup report, the resource represents just a fraction of the country's energy mix.


When the Fukushima Dai-ichi was in its first few days pro-nuclear protesters swarmed on a Grist re-post of Joe Romm post, "Will Japan be hit with multiple nuclear meltdowns in the wake of the tsunami"

Note: This was early in the crisis when there was lots of Don't Panic, Remain Calm talk from the Japanese government attempting to recover from the natural disaster and before admitted that there had been damage to the core fuel integrity in reactors #1, #2 and #3 (a partial meltdowns suspected to have occurred in #2 reactor).

One pro-nuclear advocate bewailed the loss of electric power stating that nothing but nuclear could provide this first world country with base load. I suggested geothermal and a pro-nuclear advocate retorted that there were earthquakes associated with this choice; was that what I wished for the Japanese?

At the time, it reminded of previous discourse with you BG about this risk. After all steam generators, no matter the source of the heat, are susceptible to earthquakes.

In any case, I withheld a defensive response, e.g., I consider Japan to be like Iceland where geothermal is successful or Hawaii where it is being considered. (Unsure where the newly financed project in Ireland also is comparable access.) I see the potential for those locations as different than deep drilling projects in Australia or the continental United States. Would like to see more trustworthy comparison between geothermal and nuclear.

The Ireland one sounded like EGS (deep drilling) and is presumably pretty speculative - ireland isn't known for its volcanic activity.

Japan, Indonesia and The Phillipines are like New Zealand and California - there is no reason why large scale geothermal plants can't be built right now using shallow geothermal resources.

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