Stiven Frauzel
All posts from Stiven Frauzel
Stiven Frauzel in Environment,

Japan Solar Boom Fizzling as Utilities Limit Grid Access

Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

A television crew films solar panels in Kyoto, Japan.

Japan’s solar energy boom is starting to fizzle after two years of rapid expansion left utilities saying they’re unable to accept electricity from so many new sources that generate power only when the sun shines.

At least five of the nation’s biggest utilities are restricting the access of new solar farms to their grids.

Struggling to compensate for nuclear shutdowns after the Fukushima reactor meltdowns, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offers some of the highest incentives for solar in the world. That’s helped make Japan the second-biggest market for photovoltaic panels, providing an alternative to downturns in Germany and Spain, nations that once led the industry.

“Everyone was entering the solar market because it was lucrative, and that has strained the market,” said Yutaka Miki, who studies clean energy at the Japan Research Institute.

Japan’s trade ministry has approved plans for about 72 gigawatts of renewable energy projects since July 2012. The country installed almost 7.1 gigawatts of solar capacity last year, more than currently exists in all of Spain, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A gigawatt is about the size of a nuclear reactor.

Japan’s investment in the technology more than tripled to $29.6 billion in 2013 from 2010 levels, data from London-based BNEF show.