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After;Fukushima: What the Japan Disasters Mean for PV
By Seth Masia
Following the March 11 earthquake and tsnunami, 11 nuclear-powered generating stations on the island of Honshu shut down, leaving 2. 5 million
homes without power. Japan lost about 10 gigawatts
(GW) of capacity, roughly 7 percent of the nation’s electric power. Some of that capacity will be restored, but
the 4.7-GW Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which suffered
partial meltdowns in three of its reactors and a spent-fuel storage pond, is out for good.
Much has been made in the business press of the worldwide slowdown in manufacturing of consumer goods
due to the temporary inability of Japanese plants to make
or ship components. But the hole in the Japanese power
grid also has implications for global energy markets.
as Japan rebuilds its infrastructure, the country will
show strong demand for all forms of distributed power,
from mobile generators to PV arrays.
seth masia (smasia@
solartoday.org) is deputy
editor at SOLAR TODAY.
Natural gas prices rose about 2. 5 percent during the
weekend following the initial disaster, to a two-year
high. The reason is straightforward: The quick way for
Japan to fill the nuclear gap is to burn more natural gas.
The country imports nearly all its gas from South Korea
and from Russia’s Sakhalin Island facilities. Gas futures
didn’t follow along with the rise, and a week later, as
traders recalled that the winter heating season is winding down, prices had come back down to about $4 per
million Btu. But Dow Jones predicted that by 2020, flattening of the nuclear power industry will lead utilities
worldwide to demand at least an extra 100 billion cubic
meters ( 3. 5 trillion cubic feet) of gas. Rising gas prices
affect utility costs worldwide, and make Russia stronger
in dealings with its western neighbors. Japan may also
need to import more coal, mainly from Australia.
The disasters in Japan may slow the steady decline
in photovoltaic (PV) prices. Since January, the financial
press has been forecasting a serious worldwide oversup-
ply of PV modules beginning late in 2011, when the rate
of installations, forecast at 22 GW worldwide this year,
fails to soak up China’s purported capacity to make as
much as 35 G W of new modules annually. For a variety
of reasons related to factory consolidation and Chinese
industrial policy, the 35-GW capacity figure may be
exaggerated. The PV oversupply forecast now needs to
10 May 2011 SOLAR TODA Y
Copyright © 2011 by the American Solar Energy Society Inc. All rights reserved.