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After Fukushima, a car factory that powers itself

Posting in Technology

More than two years after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown -- the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl -- cleanup of the plant is still a major environmental problem.

But the disaster has prompted the country to rethink how it uses energy. And, as AFP reports, one Toyota factory in Japan is practically self-sufficient when it comes to energy. A 7,800 kilowatt gas-fired plant generates about 70 percent of the plant's electricity needs.

The factory recycles heat from the burning of gas and uses it to dry the paint on finished vehicles. Hot water from the gas turbine runs through pipes into a nearby greenhouse that grows green peppers, which will later be sold. Solar panels also supply some power to the plant.

The best part for local residents: the factory can supply electricity to the nearby village of Ohira if there's another disaster that knocks out power for a sustained period of time.

Toyota isn't the only car company producing green energy in Japan. Honda has set up solar panels at one plant and Mitsubishi has a mini gas plant at another. But it's not just about self-sufficiency, as AFP points out. The government is requiring that utilities buy, at a premium price, as much green energy as companies can produce for the electric grid for the next 20 years. That's a pretty big incentive to get into the self-sufficiency business.

Read more: AFP

Photo: Flickr/Abode of Chaos

— By on October 21, 2013, 7:13 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure