An article I just read, written by Technology Review, shows how the Japanese want to amaze us, the rest of the world, over and over again. Not only they’re stuffed with the latest gadgets not yet found anywhere else, but now they want to set an example for the US and Europe to follow.
Four Japanese cities (Toyota City, Yokohama, Kitakyushu and Kansai Science City) want to make an experiment that should regulate all the aspects of using power, from electricity to heat and storage. While the US humbly dreams of a smart grid that would play the role of a buffer between the times when the harvested renewable resources aren’t available (at night or when wind doesn’t blow), the Japanese go beyond that and plan to invest in a $1 billion system through projects sustained and implemented by corporate parties such as Nissan, Toyota, Nippon Steel and Panasonic.
Hironori Nakanishi, a director at Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, presented the plan at a recent smart grid conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He said the government will have to build some 28 GW solar power plants, which would be more or less equivalent to 28 nuclear power plants, and that companies should build the home and office appliances to be smart and adapt their power usage to the grid’s current state, when the grid instructs them to, through special commands.
Providing heat to the communities is as important as providing power, since heat represents almost half of the total energy usage. Panasonic already got that message and has a kind of CHP system that harvests solar power during the day (when it’s sunny) and stores it into a battery for latter use. Moreover, their CHP system contains a natural gas-powered fuel cell that provides both heat and electricity. The fuel cells’ redundant (and normal) operating heat is not lost, but rather warming the home. An electric car could fit perfectly in this scenario, with the implementation of a smart grid system, just like the American V2G. This part of the project will be operated by Nissan and Toyota, using their future electric cars.
To further improve the efficiency, both AC and DC outlets would be implemented, to fit various needs without having to convert the electricity with losses from DC to AC and viceversa in the appliance. Hydrogen fuel cells will also play an important role, but at Kitakyushu, where Nippon Steel will manage the project, because they already deal with large amounts of hydrogen as their fuel.
Every aspect of this huge project has to be sustainable and for this the Kansai Science City will create special software allowing the final users manage their energy consumption and the impact their electric car and solar panels have on the grid.
I have admired the Japanese for their inventiveness and trustworthiness they are capable of. And if they set a goal to cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent by 2030, I am very tempted to believe they’ll make it.