Higashi-Matsushima, one of the cities affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, is shifting away from grid-connected power to self-reliance and local generation and distribution.
In the aftermath of the disaster, the city has chosen to rebuild its energy infrastructure through microgrids and decentralised energy generation through renewable energy in order to create an ecosystem from which 25% of the city’s 40,000 resident’s energy requirements will be provided.
Yusuke Atsumi, a manager of the purpose created local utility, HOPE, says: “at the time of the Great East Japan earthquake, we couldn’t secure power and had to go through incredible hardships.”
Higashi-Matsushima utilised funds from the Japanese government’s Resilience Programme to rebuild the infrastructure. Originally intended for building back-up capabilities for Japan’s cities and towns, the initiative has resulted in multiple microgrids being created across the country.
Higashi-Matsushima has built its own independent microgrid consisting of distribution infrastructure and solar generating panels as well as batteries to store power that can keep the city running for at least three days, Atsumi said.
Developments in cities like Higashi-Matsushima are the brainchild of Takao Kashiwagi, a professor at the International Research Centre for Advanced Energy Systems for Sustainability at the Tokyo Institute of Technology.
He designed Japan’s first smart town and is the head of the New Energy Promotion Council that has paid out more than 100 billion yen ($889 million) in subsidies from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry for smart energy communities.
“We are moving towards a day when we won’t be building large-scale power plants. Instead, we will have distributed power systems, where small power supply systems are in place near the consumption areas,” he said.
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