The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster exposed the myth of safe and cheap nuclear power. It's no wonder those most impacted are choosing 100% renewable energy.
About a year after Japan's 2011 nuclear disaster, Fukushima Prefecture pledged to switch to 100% renewable energy.
The people of Fukushima knew better than nearly anyone else that nuclear was not safe nor cheap. Even now, 100,000 people still can't return home because of the disaster - from mutations in local flora and fauna, to radiation contamination off the coast, Greenpeace research shows that we are only just starting to understand the full impacts of the disaster. Nuclear is expensive, dirty and inherently dangerous.
So what are the alternatives? Check out what what the Energy [R]evolution looks like with these 7 incredible projects...
1. Solar is the solution for Japan's abandoned golf courses!
In the 1990's, Japan went through a massive real estate boom, the result of which was the opening up of lots of golf courses that proved to be economically unstable. Now there are too many of them, and they're abandoned.
For a space starved country of over 120 million people, solar projects saw an opportunity. One golf course in Kagoshima prefecture, in southern Japan in will be replaced with more than 340,000 solar panels - enough to power about 30,500 households. Wow!
2. BIG solar is here!
This is one of the Japan's biggest solar plants, at Beppu Bay in Oita Prefecture. 340,000 solar panels are arranged on 105 hectare reclaimed land.
3. ...And here!
290,000 solar panels are arranged over a 1.2 million square-metre field at the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant.
The latest figures out of Japan show that in the 2015 financial year, solar power capable of generating an estimated 13 TWh was newly installed, which is more than the two Sendai reactors that were restarted in the same year can produce. That's BIGGER and FASTER than even we anticipated.
4. Wind power is blowing us away!
Wind energy hasn't experienced the same boom as solar, despite its great potential. In Japan, wind farms are often developed by big corporations or governments. However, Chugoku Wind Power, a small company which has only four employees in, has succeeded to make a wind farm come true. These 13 wind turbines will generate electricity for 14,000 households.
5. Check out the world's biggest FLOATING wind turbine!
"Following the 2011 earthquake and Fukushima nuclear accident, interest in alternative, renewable energy sources..." – Facebook post by Japan Today.
The world's largest floating wind farm is being built 20 kilometres off the coast of Fukushima. One turbine stands 106 metres tall, and will provide energy for 1,700 households.
6. This man turned his back on nuclear and banked on solar!
"Check out this inspiring story! As a schoolboy he wrote a slogan to promote nuclear in Japan. Now a Fukushima refugee, this man is forging a new future with solar energy." – Facebook post by Greenpeace International.
Yuji Onuma, 39, launched a solar power plant in Tochigi prefecture to bring about a "bright future" without nuclear energy.
But his story is unlike any other we've heard. When he was a schoolboy he won a competition to come up with a slogan to promote a new nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Years later, he lost everything when the Fukushima nuclear disaster hit his community. He spent four years as a refugee in his own country, during which time he had two children.
He now builds small-scale community solar projects! In his own words…
"Until the Fukushima accident occurred, I thought my life relied on the prosperity of nuclear energy, but I lost everything when the nuclear plant ended up as a failure," he said. "My life is still intertwined with the electric industry, but I could make a fresh restart this time thanks to this renewable energy project."
If there's any story that underscores where Japan's energy future lies, it's this!
7. This adorable couple are the face of community solar!
This adorable farming couple had their lives turned upside down by the nuclear disaster, when they were forced to evacuate and later when their organic farming business began losing customers.
But in 2015, Shin and Tatsuko Okawara launched the Solarise Fukushima crowdfunding project to install solar panels on the rooftop of their shop and before they knew it, people around Japan and the rest of the world began contributing to their project.
It's a small, but successful example of how to turn tragedy into positivity. The solar project has helped revitalise the area, bringing the community back together again.
Can renewables save us from another nuclear disaster?
Solar has boomed, wind is struggling to gain a foothold, and community renewable projects are springing up all over the country.
The majority of people are against the restart of nuclear. The nuclear obsessed government in Japan insists the economy needs nuclear energy to supplant expensive oil and gas imports. And of course, the nuclear industry agree! But there's a catch. The government in Japan has never really embraced renewables. It's time to go 100% renewable, and this is how.
Nuclear has no place in our future. Take action if you agree!
Ai Kashiwagi is an Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.