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2012 October 17 - 23 [ENVIRONMENT]

Small hydropower generation receives attention

October 23, 2012
Amid the growing public call for a “zero nuclear power” society, small and medium-sized hydropower generation is attracting the attention of the general public as a way to utilize Japan’s topographical and meteorological features such as steep mountains and plentiful rainfall.

Tsuru City, Yamanashi Prefecture, is rich in water that flows from the source of groundwater located at the foot of Mt. Fuji.

On the premises of the city office, three waterwheels, 6 meters in diameter, are rotating with sprays of water. They are small hydroelectric power generators that the city installed to generate electricity on its own. The fuel cost is zero because they can produce electricity using the current of the river which runs through the premises.

Their electric-generating capacity is 50 kW, which provides 50 to 70% of the city office’s power consumption.

Tsuru City has drawn a lot of attention as a “city of small hydropower generation”. The city receives study delegations learning about the generator system from many countries such as Vietnam and Ghana. In the 2011 fiscal year after the Fukushima nuclear accident, the number of visitors doubled to 2,500.

A director of the national council for promotion of micro hydroelectric power generation stresses the utilization of rivers and irrigation canals across the nation, saying, “Hydropower generation has the advantage of generating electricity almost anywhere in the country.”

According to the survey conducted by the environment ministry, the potential amount of electricity produced by small and medium-sized hydropower generators, each of whose output is lower than 30,000 kW, amounts 14 million kW. This is equivalent to about 6 times the output of the 2 reactors at the Oi Nuclear Power Plant, which were forcibly restarted by the government in July under the pretext of an impending “power shortage” during the summer.

In the last 5 years, 2 trillion yen in taxpayers’ money was used for the promotion of nuclear power generation, but, in contrast, only 650 billion yen for the development of renewable energy. A drastic change in budget allocation is needed to promote renewable energy in earnest.
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