Market News

 July 14, 2009
Japanese Schools to Run on Solar Energy

 Around 32,000 public schools to power lights using solar energy and sell excess electricity to utilities

Yvonne Chan in Hong Kong, BusinessGreen 14 Jul 2009
Japan has announced it will convert its 32,000 public elementary and middle schools to run on solar power by 2020 as part of its effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The government last week agreed to provide between $650m and $980m in subsidies for the project so that municipalities would only need to pay 2.5 per cent of the cost.

The schools are expected to be fitted with 20kW rooftop solar systems, which the Education Ministry estimates will adequately power fluorescent lighting for eight to 10 classrooms on a daily basis.

The first phase of the project aims to increase the number of solar-powered schools from 1,200 currently to 12,000 by 2012. Once all 32,000 public schools are under the scheme, the amount of electricity generated annually will be equal to that consumed by about 200,000 homes, according to ministry figures.

Under the plan, any excess power generated by the solar arrays will be sold to utility companies, providing schools with an additional source of revenue.

Japan is not alone in identifying school rooftops as a potential source of clean energy. Germany last year implemented a programme to rent out school rooftops to private investors for the installation of grid-connected solar panel array.

Meanwhile, Australia's National Solar Schools Program provides grants for the establishment of grid-linked solar power systems at primary and secondary schools, while in Britain, The Children's Plan aims to make all new school buildings zero-carbon by 2016.

Japanese officials are also considering using other public facilities -- including railway stations and highway rest areas -- to install solar panels that would help the nation reach its emissions reduction targets.

Last month, the government set a target to reduce carbon emissions 15 per cent by 2020 based on 2005 levels.

As part of its emissions reduction plan, Japan plans to increase its installed solar capacity tenfold to 14GW in 2020 and fortyfold to 53GW in 2030, from the current 1.42m kilowatts.