Kawasaki City, once known as the industrial centre of Japan associated with images of exhaust stacks spewing pollutant-filled gas and creating the dangerous smog that plagued Tokyo in the 1960’s, has in recent years been at the forefront of the promotion of clean energy and waste disposal. At the heart of this effort is the Kawasaki Eco Life Museum for the Future and the adjacent large-scale solar power plant and waste management facility.
The Kawasaki Eco Life Museum for the Future serves as the face of the green efforts of the Kawasaki City government and is designed to showcase the range of initiatives being undertaken. In addition to being a museum, it is an educational facility with interactive installations that outline the benefits of renewable energy, recycling and individual measures that can be taken.
The two floors of the museum are dedicated to explaining the challenges of global warming, renewable energy, and resource recycling. The installations include real solar panels and the blade of a wind-powered turbine, information about the history of environmental management in Kawasaki, ecological awareness, and the recycling process.
Adjacent to the museum is one of Japan’s first large-scale solar power plants. The Ukishima solar power plant is a joint venture between Kawasaki City and Tokyo Electric Power Company Incorporated (TEPCO) that comprises 11 hectares and approximately 38,000 solar panels. Commencing operations in August 2011, the Ukishima solar power plant has exceeded expectations and provided a viable stream of renewable energy.
The idea for the solar power plant was first conceived in response to regulations concerning reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay. Regulations stipulate that there must be a moratorium on construction on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay for 20 years. Taking advantage of the lack of tall buildings to cast shadows and the coastal location with plenty of sunlight, the Kawasaki City government and TEPCO planned to construct the Ukishima solar power plant.
TEPCO was approached to partner with the Kawasaki City government because of existing TEPCO facilities in the area, which means there is minimal energy loss in the short transfer from the solar panels to the distribution centre. The plan was received with great enthusiasm such that TEPCO planned and constructed a second, even bigger solar power plant on more nearby reclaimed land.
The nearby Ogishima solar power plant, which started operations in December 2011, is 23 hectares and comprises approximately 64,000 solar panels. Together the two solar power plants have a total output of approximately 20MW and result in a CO2 emission reduction of approximately 10,000 tonnes.
These two solar projects are the jewel in the crown of Kawasaki City’s green revolution and form a large part of the museum’s focus where monitoring stations allow visitors to see the historical and real-time statistics of the solar power plants.
Adjacent to the museum and the solar power plant is also a state-of-the-art recycling facility that is operated by the Kawasaki City government. Organised tours can take you through the facility to show you the steps of how Japanese recycling methods and techniques are working to create a better future. This includes how and into what kinds of products the received waste is recycled.
Entry to the museum and tours are free though they do have a range of tour activities that can only be organised with prior notice. Bookings are also required if you would like a tour of the adjacent Ukishima solar power plant. From the observation rooftop, being right across the river from Haneda airport, it is quite a sight to see the field of solar panels with planes landing in the distance.
In its first year, the museum attracted approximately 20,000 visitors including people from schools, universities, and heads of other local governments keen to see and replicate the efforts taken by the Kawasaki City. Please note that the museum and tours are predominantly conducted in Japanese, although it may be possible for alternative language arrangements to be made with advance notice; written materials are available in English.
The Kawasaki Eco Life Museum for the Future is a great example of how a once pollution-filled industrial city is embracing the future and taking definitive steps to tackle the serious issues of climate change and waste management, and spreading these important messages to interested visitors. Kawasaki City deserves to be proud of its green leadership and we can hope that this successful model is replicated throughout Japan.
More information can be found on the museum’s website.