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Small Japan village goes all solar

Sanno, population 42 and shrinking, has set up 216 solar panels to save money. It may inspire other communities to follow suit.

The average age in the farming community of Sanno is over 60.

Japan's nuclear spring didn't last long. Though the country's nuclear power plants were taken offline following the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year, the government restarted a reactor earlier this month.

But that hasn't stopped a small village some 50 miles from the Oi plant from ditching conventional electricity from the grid and going solar.

Sanno in Hyogo Prefecture, population 42, has become the first municipality to rely on solar power.

Residents of the 11 households have an average age over 60, and the village, like many in rural Japan, is suffering depopulation. Costs for maintaining shared facilities had risen, forcing the remaining residents to somehow squeeze money out of the resources they had.

Using a special fund the village had kept for decades, they hired Sanyo Engineering & Construction to build 216 solar panels to generate power.

The installation lies along a river and is expected to produce a very modest 40,000kWh of power annually.

Kansai Electric Power, the local utility, is buying the electricity, providing the village with extra income, and redistributing it. Because of this, the costs for shared facilities such as the town hall are expected to be zero next year.

Even though the Oi nuclear plant is being reactivated by Kansai Electric, and other generating facilities will likely follow, public opposition to nuclear power in Japan is still running high.

In Tokyo this week, a reported 100,000 people rallied in an anti-nuclear demonstration featuring musician Ryuichi Sakamoto and Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe.

The old folks of Sanno may not be campaigners but they've shown people that energy independence is possible in some cases.

(Via The Japan Times)