Japan may be the land of the rising sun but it wasn’t until the Fukushima nuclear disaster that it really began to shine a light on solar energy.
Bloomberg reports that the country has more than doubled solar capacity to about 13,500 megawatts since July 2012 and although renewables in total contribute just 2.2 percent of its power, new projects could quadruple solar’s share.
That increase could come in part from people like Makoto Takazawa and his father Yukio. They own a farm in Chiba prefecture but, like most Japanese trying to live off the land, have to piece together an income from various sources. One of them is solar panels erected on frames above their vegetable crops. In the last fiscal year they earned 1.7 million yen (US$16,700) selling electricity from the panels at a premium to power companies, according to Bloomberg.
Other solar farmers have signed up for the scheme but part of the deal is that they make sure that plants underneath the angled panels still get enough sunlight to grow.
It’s one bright idea that could help rural communities deal with cutbacks in government subsidies for rice production and power companies make up some of the difference from idled nuclear power plants.