Stefan Larus Stefansson, Iceland’s ambassador to Japan, recently gave a lecture in Tokyo about the very high geothermal potential in Japan. He said that if Japan were to invest in fully realizing its geothermal potential, the country could replace 25 nuclear reactors.
He used his home country as an example of geothermal success because about two-thirds of the country’s energy comes from this renewable, stable source. Japan has the world’s third-highest geothermal potential but has not been pursuing its development nearly as much as it could be.
Ironically, it was the nation’s focus on nuclear power that caused this lack of attention for geothermal development. It isn’t as if Japan is missing the technical knowledge required for geothermal installations either. They actually make the turbines Iceland uses for its geothermal plants. As a percentage of total power, developing countries like Kenya and El Salvador have more geothermal power than Japan.
In the colder areas of Japan, where there is also good geothermal potential, residents typically heat their homes with kerosene. In Iceland, heat forover 90% of the homes comes from geothermal sources. Switching to geothermal in Japan is technically feasible and the nation has the natural resources available to do so. It could generate clean energy, create jobs, and reduce carbon emissions in the process. Also, because it produces geothermal turbines, it could grow this production and become one of the world’s top exporters.
One concern with geothermal has been disruption of natural habitats when the site is located within a national park. A large hot springs in Iceland called the Blue Lagoon, however, has shown it is possible to have many visitors and retain respect for the environment. It has been reported Iceland has saved about $7.2 billion since 1970 by its use of geothermal power. One of its first geothermal pioneers was a farmer who used it to help run his farm beginning in 1908.