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Japan Power Hardware

Japan's Richest Man Outlines Renewable Energy Plan 224

itwbennett writes "Speaking at the launch of his Japan Renewable Energy Foundation, Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of Softbank, outlined a plan to rebuild Japan's energy infrastructure. Son said the country could shift to renewable energy sources for 60 percent of its electricity requirements over the next two decades. He called for a 2 trillion yen (US$26 billion) 'super grid' across the country, and underwater off the coast, that would zip electricity around cheaply and efficiently to meet demand."
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Japan's Richest Man Outlines Renewable Energy Plan

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  • So, which step is "Profit!"
  • by CrackedButter ( 646746 ) on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:13PM (#37380970) Homepage Journal

    Do it just to show up the lack of a coherent energy policy by the United States. They can't even install solar panels on the White House without some hoo-hah involved.

    • Some hoo-hah involved?

      I'm not even sure what you mean, but Carter had some solar *water* heating panels installed, that Reagan removed.

  • With so few traditional energy resources, Japan will a very difficult time reaching that goal. A few judiciously placed Gen-IV nuclear reactors would be a good idea unless they think they can reach their goal solely through wave energy and geothermal. Not sure what their solar and wind potential might be but they need a solid baseload option to replace nuclear.

    • Well, at the very least he's on the right track about the grid itself. If it weren't for the 50-60 split, they wouldn't have had to worry about power outages.

      • by haruchai ( 17472 )

        Yes, he is. I left that out of my previous post but I fully support his plan to revamp the electrical infrastructure which is also long overdue for America.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MobyDisk ( 75490 )

      Currently Gen IV plants are in the research stage. Since they take 20+ years to build, I don't think Japan can afford to risk building a theoretical device to meet today's demand. Since Japan is an island, offshore wind power is probably ideal.

      • by haruchai ( 17472 )

        You're right, I got the Generation classification wrong; I meant Gen III+ designs such as the Advanced CANDU or the AP1000.

        • Japan should build nuclear reactors on top of geologically freely available and all-but infinite hot water? That's just crazy. Although I have to give kudos to the GE nuclear plant salesman who first sold that lemon to the Japanese.
          • by haruchai ( 17472 )

            Isn't there some risk to expansive use of geothermal in an earthquake-prone zone? I recall an earthquake in Switzerland that was blamed on geothermal drilling about 4-5 years ago which to concerns being raised in California and Germany.

          • by dbIII ( 701233 )
            At the time Japan was facing the possibility of a future blockade by the Chinese navy or problems with North Korea making it difficult to import sources of energy. In that context nuclear power makes a lot more sense than in many other locations.
            Of course the GE, Westinghouse etc reactors were crap so the Japanese put a lot of money into development. The more recent design from Westinghouse is really from Toshiba since the US nuclear industry puts less money into R&D than manufacturers of cheming gum.
        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Sadly there isn't one of the 1980s style AP1000s running yet. We'll know if they are good enough in a couple of years or so when the first AP1000 reactor is at the testing stage, and even more a year or two after that when it's hooked up to turbines.
    • Really? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Idou ( 572394 )
      Let me get this straight. The most successful Japanese business man is going balls to the wall for renewable energy after his country has just experienced what still could become the worst nuclear accident ever. You:

      - Probably have significantly less money that can be invested in ANY project (not that you would bother investing in Japan if you did).
      - Probably do not even HAVE any assets in Japan at risk.
      - Did not even take the time to look up what Japans real alternative energy profile looks like.

      • his country has just experienced what still could become the worst nuclear accident ever.

        Ever heard of Chernobyl, which nearly made the whole of Europe inhabitable, required 600,000 "liquidators" to be mobilised to build a cover on top of the reactor (most of which died of severe radiation poisoning less than 20 years later), bankrupted the USSR (it cost hundred of billions of modern dollars), and removed 10 million of acres of land from Belarus and Ukraine?

        The Fukushima disaster is not close to being the w

        • Inhabitable Sir? So therefore Fukishima should reverse the ongoing decline in the Japanese population instead then?

        • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Alex Belits ( 437 ) * on Monday September 12, 2011 @07:13PM (#37381876) Homepage

          Ever heard of Chernobyl, which nearly made the whole of Europe inhabitable, required 600,000 "liquidators" to be mobilised to build a cover on top of the reactor (most of which died of severe radiation poisoning less than 20 years later),

          I lived in less than 100km to the North from Chernobyl power plant, and my health is better than one of most people posting here.

          The scale of Chernobyl disaster was massively inflated for political reasons, and to promote the policy of replacing nuclear power plants with less efficient coal-burning ones, that you see now in Europe.

          bankrupted the USSR (it cost hundred of billions of modern dollars),

          It didn't, because government was on both sides of all contracts related to the cleanup. It's not US, where contractor companies gorge on money thrown at them by the government every time there is any excuse for doing so.

          and removed 10 million of acres of land from Belarus and Ukraine?

          Swamp land. The power plant was build in the midst of swamps.

          • Not so much...It's a bit in between both of your extremes...

            However deaths appear to be limited to about 1,000 or less (quite possibly under 100) except children getting thyroid cancer.

            Large areas of the land are livable again with basically double normal background radiation (comparable to living in a city with a lot of stone buildings like New York).

            Substantial areas are still (and will be for about 600 years) uninhabitable.

            From here...



      • by haruchai ( 17472 )

        I've always been a staunch support of renewables but they have to be appropriate to the demand and the location. As one of the world's largest consumers of energy as well as a very developed society, they really can't afford to react out of fear. While this was a great disaster, how many of the 50-odd nuke plants were affected? The biggest problem is that divided grid with only 3 frequency converter stations in the whole country.

    • by gstrickler ( 920733 ) on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:39PM (#37381176)

      Japan is one of the few places that could possibly be powered completely by geothermal. There isn't nearly enough wave energy to supply the planet, nor is there sufficient wave energy near Japan to supply Japan. With a combination of geothermal, wind, hydro, and possibly some solar or wave, Japan might be able to go completely renewable. Most industrialized countries don't have access the the abundant geothermal resources Japan has (due to their location on the edge of the "ring of fire").

      Of renewable sources, solar and wind are the ones that can supply enough power for the world, but both are intermittent sources that are not well suited to supplying either base-load or peak-load power without a significant amount of on-demand energy storage added to the grid. On demand energy storage can be in the form of batteries, super capacitors, gravity reservoirs (e.g. pump water uphill to a reservoir during periods of excess generation, release it through turbines when needed), etc. However, solar requires huge amounts of land. Solar and wind each need more than 4x average demand installed (even with on-demand storage, more still without on-demand storage) because they only average ~25% of installed capacity. Neither solar or wind is viable in all areas, and with it's intermittent nature, the grid must have significantly more capacity to route from locations with excess to locations with a shortage.

      Bottom line, for most of the world, nuclear and/or fossil fuels are the only currently viable means to meet the difference between renewable capacity and peak demand. Fossil fuels will be exhausted in 50-250 years (~50 yrs oil, slightly longer for natural gas, 200+ years coal). Since plants have a 40-80yr life span, fossil fuel plant built today, could run out of fuel before the plant is used up. Nuclear is the only long term solution that is viable today, and even that needs to move to a thorium fuel model with breeder reactors and fuel reprocessing in order to last more than a few hundred years.

      • solar requires huge amounts of land

        Even beyond all of the roofs that are readily available for such use?

        • Yes. Peak solar radiation on the ground is ~ 1kW/m2 in the summer (may be higher in the tropics), and you get that on a cloudless day for a few hours in the middle of the day. It drops off pretty quickly as the sun drops out of the peak. Clouds also lower it dramatically, and you get less in spring, fall, and winter. And less at higher latitudes. And of course, there is none at night.

          Assuming a 2000 sq ft, 3 level home (upstairs, downstairs, and basement), that's about 667 sq ft (~62 m2) of flat roof area.

      • by Xtravar ( 725372 )

        Your post is very informative. I think I see an obvious solution from what you've posted.

        Most industrialized countries don't have access the the abundant geothermal resources Japan has (due to their location on the edge of the "ring of fire").

        On demand energy storage can be in the form of batteries, super capacitors, gravity reservoirs (e.g. pump water uphill to a reservoir during periods of excess generation, release it through turbines when needed), etc.

        Let's use the ground as a battery and then geothermal to recapture it!

        Let's make our own "ring of fire"!!!! It worked for Johnny Cash.

      • by wrook ( 134116 )

        What I can't figure out is why nobody in Japan is talking about geothermal. There has been a lot of talk about increasing wind power (and it is noticeably expanding at a good rate already), and building big solar farms (some at sea, which seems like a completely daft idea). But I haven't heard a single word on expanding geothermal, which should be the key for this kind of undertaking. What I'd like to know is why not. The existing geothermal plants seem to be working acceptably, so it should be feasible

        • In Japan a 20 MW geothermal plant would cost $50 million. Let's say 4,000 MWs is a typical nuclear plant and that its cost is $6 billion. Japan would have to build 200 geothermal plants at a cost of $10 billion just to replace a single Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. That's $4 billion more than necessary. And it'd be even worse figuring in the cost of infrastructure to connect 200 power plants to the grid. Perhaps that's why nobody is talking about geothermal in Japan.

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )

        Sorry, we're closing down your onsen so we can turn it into a power plant.

        Somehow I don't think that would go down too well in Japan.

      • Ignoring how there are lots of energy storage solutions that are improving from batteries to hydrogen stored in metal hydrides, what about simple thermal storage in molten salt? []
        "The Gemasolar 19.9-MW Concentrated Solar Power system is a âoepower towerâ plant, consisting of an array of 2,650 heliostats (mirrors) that aim solar radiation at the top of a 140-m (450-ft) central tower. The radiation heats molten salts that circ

        • Converting electricity to heat and vice-versa is not very efficient. Converting solar PV to heat is a terrible idea for that reason. You'll lose energy converting electricity to heat, then even more converting back. Much better to just use solar thermal in the first place. Carnot's theorem [] says the efficiency of heat to work conversion is limited by the ratio of absolute temperatures of the heat source and heat sink (e.g. ambient temperature). With a cooling source at 300K (27C), you need at least 600K heat

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:14PM (#37380978) Homepage Journal
    I don't want this guy anywhere near any real important infrastructure, his network is a fucking joke. Massive amounts of dead spots, slow as shit(esp. when compared to his competitors) internet speed etc. The guy obviously either doesn't know anything about building cell networks or doesn't give a shit. However he DOES spend I would estimate at least 2-3x as much as his competitors do on advertising. So maybe that is what he is planning, a massive ad campaign for renewable energy without anything concrete to show for it.

    Softbank sucks.
    • Of course, I was in Tokyo most of the time, and it was the only company providing the first "non-dumb" smartphones (iphone) at the time. When the 3/11 earthquake hit, of course, the service was non-existent, but I do not know any other services that really survived (though, my emobile mobile wifi dongle worked well enough).

      Say what you want, but Softbank really brought the iphone revolution (now the iphone and android revolution) to Japan. Also, I am sure the smartgrid will not be wireless . . .
      • by JanneM ( 7445 ) on Monday September 12, 2011 @06:24PM (#37381542) Homepage

        "Say what you want, but Softbank really brought the iphone revolution"

        No, not really. They were a newly started/aqcuired network (softbank bought a failing network wholesale) with few customers and a reputation for lousy infrastructure. They were the only network willing to accede to Apple's conditions for selling the iPhone (rumour has it Apple was holding out for NTT Docomo to the end but the negotiations fell through). Apple got a compliant network and Softbank got a cash cow to drive subscribers.

        But Softbank only "brought the iPhone revolution" because they were the only network willing to bend to Apples conditions.

        • by Idou ( 572394 )
          Exactly, Softbank were the only ones flexible enough in Japan to do business with Apple. However, you seem intent on disagreeing, so yes . . . I am wrong, you are right . . .
          • by wrook ( 134116 )

            If you lived in Tokyo, then virtually any company will have reasonably good coverage. But Japan is a lot bigger than Tokyo. When I first came to Japan I was with Softbank mainly because they supposedly have an English help line (although every time I called it, it was out of service). Living in a small town in Shizuoka prefecture, I could not conduct telephone calls in my apartment because the signal was poor. I had to go out doors. Wherever I went, I had about a 50% chance of receiving telephone calls

            • In Tokyo Softbank has the same connection problem. I with my super old Docomo dumb-phone am often the only one that gets a signal. The Softbank network is really very crap.

      • Actually the Softbank data network on the iphone worked wheres the docomo phone service was 100% down for the whole day.

    • So, if there is any competition in Japan, like DoCoMo and whoelse, why not change to those? And why doesn't everyone else? So, what is the catch?

      • I will as soon as my contract is up, but I was dumb enough to want an iPhone and that was the only provider. While I like the iPhone better than Android, being relegated to such a shitty network isn't worth it, and if future iPhone revisions are only compatible with Softbank, I will be dumping the iPhone as well.
        • Softbank worked great for me in Kanto. You really have to be specific, as the quality of mobile services seems to depend on the region you are in.
          • I am in Ibaraki and it sucks balls. Even in Tokyo I never get nearly the speed I got in the middle of cow town Germany, although I would at least get signal.
            • by Idou ( 572394 )
              Fair enough. The furthest North I used their service was Tsukuba-shi (but close to the TX station).
              • Thats where I live, and it actually works alright near the station(so of course the one time I went in to the softbank store there to complain I had full strength), but go even a km or 2 north and you lose strength real quick. Go any further north and it gets even worse.
                • by Idou ( 572394 )
                  Duly noted. That is a very beautiful place to live. Hope to return, one day . . .
  • by lseltzer ( 311306 ) on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:15PM (#37380990)
    I worked for ZD when he bought the company (97 maybe, from Forstmann-Little). The man is an infamous bullshitter. If he's actually giving serious thought to doing something along these lines then it has to be a scam that he'll make money on.
  • The punchline (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Scareduck ( 177470 ) on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:16PM (#37381002) Homepage Journal

    At bottom, this is a demand for public subsidy. The fact that he does not plan to make money with his initiative is a huge tell, and why this won't succeed. Energy production has been responsible for some of the world's biggest fortunes, yet here Son is saying he's not interested in making money? I smell a rat.

    • Re:The punchline (Score:5, Interesting)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:34PM (#37381136)

      Reminds me of T. Boone Pickens. He was all for wind power when he was asking [] the government for a right-of-way which would also have the convenient side-effect of allowing him to build a huge pipleline infrastructure for his large water holdings (making him a fortune). When he didn't get this right-of-way, suddenly he stopped being a big fan of wind power for some reason. Today you'll hear not a peep from him about it.

      • by Rayonic ( 462789 )

        Implementing Pickens Plan would give him rights to build electric transmission lines, and by getting a wider right of way it would allow Pickens to build water pipelines.[53]

        Holy shit, transmission lines? Water pipelines?! Thank god this madman was stopped! Sure, some cities in the area might need both of those things, but the important point is this guy wanted to make money off of it. The nerve!

    • Maybe he's gunning for political office? Being the man who put the lights back on - figuratively speaking - would probably buy a lot of popularity points.
    • from the Japanese nuke industry.
    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      This is textbook Clinton. Take position for something that seems to solve a lot of problems but that does not seem likely to happen - so you get the good PR without risking a backlash if the thing is actually done and it fails miserably.

      Obama is not my hero but at least he did more than talk about health care.

      • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

        Oh? Clinton balanced the god damn budget.

        Obama created a mandate that people carry insurance, this subsidies the insurance companies and allows them to raise prices. If he had implemented a single payer public option that covered all Americans, then Obama could be said to have done something good for health care. But even that isn't as powerful as Clinton's balanced budget. The bad news is that neither achievement will have survived the next person to take office.

    • Show me a energy industry that does not receive public subsidy.

    • by jon3k ( 691256 )
      When you have that much money you start considering your legacy. Look at what Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are doing these days. Ego can be one HELL of a motivator.
  • Compared to the first Stimulus Plan that cost us $866 (Carl Sagan's favorite word) Billions of Dollars, and now the (now that Stimulus is a bad word) proposed $447 Billion Jobs Plan that is really a Wealth Redistribution Plan by any other name, a mere $26 Billion infrastructure upgrade that actually does something useful sounds like a real bargain.
    • At the risk of burning karma in pointless, off-topic pedantry I will simply point out that our beloved Carl was known for saying "billions and billions", which is four billion at the least.

      Still, when we're talking about nearly a trillion dollars what's a factor of two or four between friends, eh?

    • by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:44PM (#37381202)

      Hey, now while I'm no fan of either stimulus plan I object to the "wealth redistribution" class warfare rhetoric. We can't discuss class unless it is to defend the wealthy!

      To be more serious, the wealthy have been waging a PR driven class war against everybody else for decades; both of Obama's plans give in heavily to the ruling class and still had/have a big uphill battle for the tiny portion that is ok. This current one will not pass for multiple reasons; one of the big ones being that tax loopholes the wealthy use to CHEAT are being closed to help fund tax cuts for the rest who've been picking up the bill for the wealthy --- the wealth HAS been redistributed upwards at increasing amounts for decades; their pay goes up while the rest are lucky to keep up with inflation (and most do not; including myself... I've never had a job that kept up with inflation.)

      Tax derivatives less than 1% and you pretty much fix our budget issues. "Business" which does not benefit the real economy should be taxed like the gambling it is. Instead, we continue to let them expand their addiction to our retirement funds and soon our social security funds.

      Rob a bank and its a despicable crime; rob nations and its just a statistic.
      With enough money anybody can buy all the praise they desire.

    • >>Compared to the first Stimulus Plan that cost us $866 (Carl Sagan's favorite word) Billions of Dollars, and now the (now that Stimulus is a bad word) proposed $447 Billion Jobs Plan that is really a Wealth Redistribution Plan by any other name, a mere $26 Billion infrastructure upgrade that actually does something useful sounds like a real bargain.

      But, uh, just think about all the stuff the trillion dollars has got us!

      Hell, the ARRA repainted road markings on a street not 200 feet from me. That's wo

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 ) on Monday September 12, 2011 @05:56PM (#37381322)

      Honestly what is wrong with a little wealth redistribution?
      I realize it is not popular on slashdot, but if that is what our economy needs so be it. When the rich have all the money they don't spend it. If we give that to the poor, they will spend it right away.

  • That is the important item. In addition, add storage. Once you have that, you can move in and out with energy generation.
  • stay with software (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drwho ( 4190 )

    ....hardware isn't your area of expertise, Mr. Son. Japan needs nuclear power, it is even less suited to wind & solar than other places, and has practically no fossil fuels. However, nuclear energy can be cleaner, safer, and more efficient than it is, by the use of molten salts for cooling and fuel delivery. The best example of this are Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors...see

    • by tp1024 ( 2409684 )
      When will you guys finally understand, that doing everything just one way is the surest way to fail. There is no reason not to use wind, solar, geothermal or biomass where it is available and where it can be used sustainably with minimal (additional) damage to the environment. Of course, it's not necessarily cheap and I don't believe there is enough of them to provide for all the energy we need.

      But again, no reason not to use them, provided that the public isn't being mislead about costs and usefulness of
  • A few obvious questions about those renewable energy sources he wants to use:

    Which ones? Are they used in a sustainable way? Where will it be placed? Who will finance it how? What are the limits to environmental damage and destruction caused by them? How will energy from wind and solar be stored? Who will pay for use and installation of storage? What will be the energy source for the other 40% of electricity? What will they do about the other 60% or so of energy that are not electricity and are currently
  • Just wondering if his plan fixes and replaces the 2 different power grids Japan has. They have a 50Hz grid and a 60Hz grid, with several power converts between the grids, but they can only handle about 1GW of power transferred between the two grids (which is why when the earthquake/tsunami caused many of the nuclear plants to shutdown, even though they had the capacity on the other grid to handle the losses, they didn't have the ability to transfer the power to the other grid, and had to have rolling blacko
  • a massive grid that would run 36,000 kilometers and link Japan with countries including India, China, and Russia.

    It's only a matter of time until we have Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion power grid. []

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun