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Japan's nuclear dilemma: Is geothermal the answer?

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Encouraged to invest in renewable

Businesses, meanwhile, have been encouraged to invest by a new tariff that will enable them to sell electricity from renewable sources to utilities at above-market prices.

Marubeni Corp. is about to begin building Japan's largest solar energy complex, in Oita Prefecture. After it's completed in early 2014, its 350,000 solar panels will be capable of generating more than 81,000 kilowatts – enough electricity for 30,000 households.

Sumitomo Corp. is to add wind farms and biomass plants to its energy inventory, and expects profits from wind alone to triple in the next three years.

Until recently, Japan's development of geothermal was mainly hindered by a ban on building plants in national parks, where some 80 percent of potential sites are located. But the government decided to relax the ban in five areas after the Fukushima accident.

Read the Monitor's Focus story on Japan's nuclear waste

In addition to the tariffs, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has earmarked about $29 million in subsidies for the next year to encourage communities and private investors to develop geothermal sources. Most of the money will be used to guarantee loans and fund research and drilling.

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