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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Solar Energy - A Japanese Hole-In-One

Sent to me by the sweetie from Wonderland, comes this hole-in-one, as she thought I might take a swing at a story involving Japan succumbing to the advances of solar energy, while turning its back on golf.

The image at the left is an artist's rendering of the Kyocera solar power facility in Kyoto. Image courtesy of Kyocera Solar.

While I do like the prospect of solar energy, let me just state for the record that I am not a fan of golf.

The ONLY time I played golf not involving a swinging log and Abraham Lincoln's abnormally long legs doing some 1920s dance step I can't name, was back on August 14, 2003 when I played 18 holes in Unionville, Ontario, Canada.

I plopped the first tee shot a mere three feet from the cup and thought "This game is effing EASY!!!"

Several hours and 19 lost golf balls later I realized my brain was far too advanced for this "sport" and decided to not play again.

Anyhow… if that date seems familiar, it was also the day the northeastern part of North America suffered a huge blackout, with the U.S. blaming Canada for the mess, even though it later came out the real culprit was a software bug in the alarm system at a control room of the FirstEnergy Corporation, located in Ohio, U.S.

I'm sure the U.S. never apologized for slandering Canada's good name. Blame Canada? Stupid South Parkers from Colorado. Hey... we got your Tulowitzki in Toronto now. Vengeance.

Anyhow… now that I have managed to provide a real link between myself, electrical power and golf (and South Park and baseball), let's get busy…

It seems that on at least four occasions, closed golf courses in Japan have been converted into solar energy farms.

That... that is partially about Japan embracing solar energy in the wake of its reluctance to restarting its nuclear energy programs (how many times bitten - nth time shy, I always say, but usually only involving women), as well as about the economic bubble in Japan not just bursting, but going ka-blooey - like a reactor in Fukushima?

What… too soon?

If you were living under a lead-lined stone for the past five years, you might have forgotten that on March 11, 2011, Japan was rocked by a 9.0 Magnitude earthquake that spawned an offshore tsunami wave or three that crashed into cities and towns along Japan's northeast coast - including the Dai-ichi nuclear power generating facility in Fukushima-ken.

Power went out at the plant, and back-up generators were rendered useless, and the plant began to overheat… and even after trying to get control of the situation over a month later, several of the six reactors there nearly went ka-blooey.

As it is, a heck of a lot of radioactive materials were spilled and expelled into the water, land and air surrounding the reactor facility… causing a large swathe of the prefecture to become a no-go zone and turning many towns into ghost towns that may or may not glow in the dark. I doubt they do. I'm just being insensitive.

Since that time… Japan's nuclear power generating industry has come under nuclear fire for its sub-par upkeep of it 50+ facilities, and after being shut down for repairs and upgrades, the federal government - with backing by the Japanese people - has kept them all shut down, even though many are ready to go on-line to provide a less expensive energy option.

Now… despite a plethora of volcanic thermals bubbling under and around Japan, the country hasn't quite got into using such an abundant and alternate energy source, relying instead on the tried and true extinct dinosaur to provide it with all the energy it needs to make its neon signs glow with pride.

But… someone… or rather someones have decided that where there is a will, there's a way to make money if one has the yen to try something… different. I know, I know... Japan isn't exactly known for doing something different, but in truth, Japan does a whole lotta things different - for better and for worse... and isn't really that afraid to try new things as long as it has the time to make a proper examination of it, then to hem and haw about it, complaining that changing something will make the country less Japanese, forget about it for awhile, and then when someone else comes around and proves it to be financially viable, Japan will swallow its pride and tell everyone how this new thing is the best Japanese way yet.

You know that most of Japan's social customs and male haircuts have been lifted from China right? 

So... let's get back on track... so... the little Wonderland babe... she sent me an article about Japan using an old golf course as the area to build a solar power generating facility.

Even though I know who it came from, I never take any media at face value, and so needed to see if this whole golf to-solar thing was something original... and lo and behold... it wasn't.

But that doesn't diminish the impact of the news... hell... that lead lined rock I've been living under also prevents a lot of news from entering my ears.

Anyhow... while I am aware that Japan is now trying to become very heavily involved in solar power electrical energy generation, THIS particular blog is only going to look at the construction of such facilities on lands that were once golf courses... all fore of them. Ha.

On June 3, 2014, Bloomberg reported that an abandoned golf course near the Fukushima nuclear plant would be turned into a solar park, with solar panels placed all over the former greens.

It was to have been completed by March of 2015 with Hanwha-Q Cells providing the capturing solar panels to provide for the 26-megawatt Sunny Fukushima project to be built by JFE Holdings Inc.’s engineering unit and run by Sunny Health Co. - expecting to generate enough power for 8,000 homes.

Interesting enough, Hanwha-Q Cells isn't a Japanese company, but rather a Germany-headquartered company under the South Korea Hanwha Group.

Not to be completely left behind, one day later on June 4, 2014, again according to Bloomberg News, the Tokyo-based Orix Corp.—a finance and leasing company—began building a 51-megawatt solar power plant on a then closed golf course (as of January 2014) in Mie-ken, in the western part of Japan, expecting it to be up and running by May of 2016.

Orix, in an effort to prove that Japan has still got 'it', said that as of April of 2014 17 solar power plants it built are up and running in Japan with a combined capacity of 41.3 megawatts.

On December 9, Bloomberg News reported that condominium developer the Tokyo-headquartered Takara Leben Co. was turning a closed golf course in Tochigi-ken (my old stomping grounds) into a 15-megawatt solar power plant, with Japan's Solar Frontier K.K. providing the solar panels and Hitachi Zosen Corp. in charge of the project.

This isn't Takara Leben's first kick at the can, as it currently has eight other operating solar power plants in Japan providing 10 megawatts of combined capacity.

On December 10, 2014 - thanks again Bloomberg, we have news that the General Electric Co. provided financing for a 42-megawatt Mimasaka Musashi solar power project under development in western Japan by Pacifico Energy K.K.

Toyo Engineering Corp. was tapped to build the solar farm on yet another closed golf course in Okayama, using components from Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. (China) and Toshiba Mitsubishi Electric Industrial Systems Corp. The plant is expected to begin selling power to Chugoku Electric Power Co. in late 2016.

Which brings us to what Alice really sent me (fodder for thought because she knows my brain is hot-wired to know more), is news from June 20, 2015 via www.takepart.com that Japanese electronics manufacturer Kyocera (Kyoto, Japan) is going to turn a Kyoto golf course into a 23-megawatt farm… and despite being 3-megawatts less than the first solar plant nee golf course in Fukushima, it will also provide power for 8,000 homes.

I suppose they folks in Kyoto don't require as much electrical power as the folks in Fukushima… or this is some new Japanese math I don't know about… always a possibility considering I'm one of those people who can take off his shoes and socks and underwear and count up to 69.

Personally… I'm all in on the whole solar power thing.

I would have solar power panels on my house if the Canadian government made it more affordable, say actually providing the government financial feedback upfront so I could pay for the verdamnt thing with real money.

And… as god as my witness, I'll never play golf again… because obviously I angered the goddesses at The Weather Channel that one time and caused them to smite the eastern part of North America with some weird spiritual darkness, eh.

Somewhere I'm late because the power outage shut off my alarm clock,
Andrew "I don't know what sun-block is" Joseph

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