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Japan has become one of just five countries to have achieved 10 gigawatts of installed solar photovoltaic capacity when at the end of August it reached 10.5GW.
Germany was the first country to achieve this milestone, followed by Italy, and then in the last few months China and the US.
Japan was actually the dominant force in the PV market a decade ago, becoming the first country to install 1 gigawatt of combined solar power capacity in 2004, and then claiming the largest capacity of installed PV power in the world in 2005.
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The country’s solar development then petered out in the mid-2000s as a new ten year energy plan, developed in 2002 and which favoured the expansion of Japan’s nuclear power sector, began to take more effect. The plan set a target of increasing nuclear capacity by 30% by 2011.
Then in 2011 the tsunami and earthquake hit, causing the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and bringing the Japanese population together in protest against the entire nuclear industry. This was solar energy’s time to shine again, as the government began to focus on renewable energy generation.
In an attempt to rapidly encourage investment in renewable energy, the government introduced feed-in-tariffs in June 2012 that pushed the prices for solar power down to 42 yen ($0.53) per kilowatt-hour, even less than the rate offered in Germany. Recent research by NPD Solarbuzz, attributes the rapid growth in Japan’s PV market to the generous feed-in-tariffs.
Growth in the solar market, as well as other renewable energies such as wind, are expected to continue into the future, and Japan is expected to become the world’s dominant market for all renewable energy.
One question raised in the face of Japan’s ambitious expansions into solar energy, is its ability to support the demand. Supply shortages have already been met as domestic PV panel producers are unable to keep up with orders, and many are fully occupied until 2014.
There are even concerns that the Japanese electrical grid will not be able to support the predicted expansion in renewable energy generation capacity.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com