Japanese Town Ventures Into Clean Energy

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The town of Obama Onsen, rests at the foothills of the Unzen Volcano, and on a geothermal hotbed that attracts tourists for its spas and hot springs resorts. Photos by Ari Beser.

Obama Onsen, Japan – On the foothills of the Mt. Unzen Volcano, the Nagasaki Prefectural town of Obama Onsen, which literally means “Small Beach Hot Springs” in Japanese, is harnessing the power of the earth. In the town famous for its relaxing therapeutic spas and some of the hottest natural springs in Japan, the local people have come together to start their own renewable energy initiative.

After the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, the Japanese public support for nuclear power has waned. Prior to the earthquake Japan received 30 percent of its power from nuclear reactors, but since then all reactors have been shut off with the exception of a recent restart at Sendai Nuclear Power Plant on the southern tip of Kyushu Island.

To supplement the loss of nuclear power, the use of oil, natural gas and solar has since increased to stabilize the energy supply. However, according to reports only 2 percent of Japan’s geothermal resources are used to generate electricity.

The people of Obama Onsen believe that there is another way to produce clean geothermal energy in a way that is rarely done in Japan. Prior to this new initiative, the hot springs in Obama Onsen were noted to waste 70 percent of their famously hot water. The Obama Onsen Energy Plant uses the excess heat from natural hot springs to generate electricity. The concept has the power plant run and funded entirely by collaborating with local people and a company, Koyo Denki Co.


① Naturally heated 100℃ water flows into —> Read More