This month, Japanese electronics company Kyocera launched the country's largest solar plant. The facility can power 22,000 homes — and, maybe more importantly, it poses no risk of melting down, injuring workers or spewing radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.
Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant — the facility's proper name — is located in an inlet at the very southern tip of Japan, which means it's fairly safe from threatening storms or tsunamis — although it does sit in the shadow of Sakurajima, an active volcano. But no matter what crises may come over the next few decades, Nanatsujima poses almost no threat to the surrounding community.
The Fukushima disaster isn't the only thing spurring Japan's boom in solar energy production. In fact, the country has instituted a large-scale program to encourage new plants — and more importantly, to encourage consumers to choose solar over more traditional forms of energy.
This policy, which began in 2012, is called a "feed-in tariff". In essence, it subsidises the higher cost of solar power against other sources — supplying solar park owners with payments for their trouble. As the Washington Post explained in June, Japan's solar energy output it expected to double this year thanks to the resulting "explosion" of solar parks:
The feed-in tariff is the legacy of Naoto Kan, Japan's unpopular prime minister at the time of the Fukushima disaster, who decided after the meltdowns that atomic power was too dangerous for this earthquake-prone country. So, Kan made a deal with the opposition party: He'd resign only after parliament cooperated to pass several pieces of legislation, including a renewable-energy bill that established the tariff.
In short, Kan sacrificed his political career in exchange for a deal that would encourage energy companies to go solar. After more than two years, it looks like he was right to do so. [Slate]