Renewable Energy for Remote Area Development, PRP 187

Eaton, David J.
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LBJ School of Public Affairs

The Oki Islands include four inhabited islands surrounded by a ring archipelago lagoon approximately 24 miles north of the Honshu Coast, part of Shimane Prefecture in Japan’s Chugoku Region. During the week of August 17-21, 2015, the students gathered on Oki to attend lectures on the islands’ sustainability issues, such as the regional decline in population, transportation and economic activity, the cost and environmental issues associated with power generation from burning heavy oil, Oki’s eco-tourism potential as a Japanese Geopark, and the Oki’s role as a Japanese border community. The students visited sites for processing of biomass waste, the heavy oil-fired power plant, the electrical storage facilities, and a site where a future windmill will be installed for power generation. During this week the students also visited Duogo waste management facilities and observed processes for treatment of solid waste and wastewater. The students divided themselves into groups of four to five people to investigate how to improve job creation, energy security, and community participation within the Oki Islands. On Oki the students developed ideas that could contribute to a feasibility report for Chugoku, the local electric company, on whether to consider RET as part of Japan’s initiative for reducing carbon emissions. The report assesses the feasibility of replacing through diverse renewable energy sources and supplemental electrical energy storage a portion of the energy now produced on Oki from two heavy oil-fired power plants. The report builds upon a memoranda developed by the 34 students in nine groups investigating diverse renewable energy topics during field research on the Oki Islands during August 2015. Twelve UT students conducted substantial supplemental research and drafted this report during the fall 2015 semester to refine and augment recommendations. The UT students also shot and edited a documentary video about their experiences. This report recommends that the citizens of the Oki Islands and the Chugoku Electric Power Company consider investing in wind, solar, biomass, and micro-hydro sources, along with energy storage, to provide Oki’s baseload electricity, allowing existing oil-fired power plants to remain as a backup source for electrical power generation. Survey results suggest that a majority of Oki inhabitants would support an energy grid powered by renewable energy, although they are skeptical of RET installations on personal property.