Tsukuba`s GREENERY Ironically (and very quickly) Disappearing for the sake of GREEN ENERGY – Solar Panel Boom creates ugly, dangerous, carbon-emitting landscapes
By Avi Landau
Going around Tsukuba, whether by car, bicycle or on foot, has become a JARRING experience for those of us who have been living here for more than just a few years. Often, when we expect to come upon our favorite “green-spots”- the forests, woods, bamboo groves, vegetable-fields, and other verdant spaces which have made this area so pleasant and comforting, we are greeted instead by expansive monstrosities of metal and silicon, flat panels pointed diagonally (and worshipfully) toward the heavens, sitting on bases of grim concrete. It seems as if week by week our most beautiful, carbon absorbing, little-creature-sheltering spaces are giving way to solar-panel systems, installed by land-owners who have been convinced by small solar-energy companies that they will be able to make profits in the future, by selling the electricity they produce.
Many of these small solar-panel companies, though, might not survive the seven years they insist it will take before a profit can be turned. And if they do go out of business, it might not even be posible to keep these systems in working order – let alone profitable. Some of these companies are also quite dubious – to say the least. In fact, the disasterous flood which inundated Joso City this year has been partially attributed to solar panels. The company that installed that particular system lowered by 2 meters the levee along the Kinu River so that their panels could get more sunshine. The rising river flooded over that spot first and led to a huge breach in the embankment.
Last month, I read about solar panels which were built along the shores of Lake Hinuma. Plenty of “clean” energy will be obtained, they say, but an important nesting area for birds was filled in and concreted over ! Why can`t we keep this ostensibly very environmentally-friendly power source, truly environmentally-friendly?
Once again, I will have to blame the solar panel companies who push their systems as investments and insist on their profitability – urging landlords to turn their “useless” green areas into productive plots earning their owners money every day.
Another big solar-panel story hit the local news this week. A huge swath of mixed forest has been cut down (already) on the southern slope of Mt. Tsukuba to make way for a solar panel field. Curiously, this happened in an area that is park of what is called the Mt. Tsukuba Quasi-National Park. People are outraged not only because of the viloation of park rules, but also because deforesting the slope creates a serious landslide hazard – not to mention the uglification of an important scenic area.
Fortunately, this issue has apparentl struck a nerve among the general populace here and already some serious activism has arisen – hopefully that project, like Mayor Ichihara`s ill-fated scheme to build a sports complex, will be cancelled due to popular opinion.
Solar energy is a GREAT idea – and I support it all the way. But lets keep the panels on roof-tops and over parking lots. We don`t have to cut down the forest or cement over the rice-paddies to install them!