Japan and Malaysia consider geothermal energy

Japan and Malaysia are both looking to geothermal energy as a way to cut back on non-renewable energy sources. (Pictured: Hacchobaru Geothermal Power Plant in Japan)

The Japanese are looking for sources of energy after shutting down all of their nuclear power reactors to check for safety issues. One resource that experts are considering is geothermal energy. Unlike wind and solar power, geothermal energy is a steady source of energy that will not go away at night or when the wind stills. Additionally, there are large reservoirs of geothermal steam underground. This is the same volcanic steam that powers Japan's famous hot springs.

In another part of Asia, the University of Auckland is helping Malaysia develop geothermal power on some of its islands, according to WBUR.

Malaysia is interested in using geothermal energy to cut back on its use of fossil fuels. It is building plants on the island of Borneo and in Tawau. Malaysia's Minister of Energy, Green technology and Water Dr. Maximus Ongkili intends to move Malaysia's renewable energy supply to 5.5 percent of the total energy used in Malaysia. It is currently only 0.85 percent.

While Malaysia wants to take advantage of its volcanic activity, some in Japan are concerned further development of geothermal energy would sap some of its hot springs. Hirokazu Nunoyama, director of the Japan Spa Association, says hot spring baths known as onsen are a cultural tradition and expresses concern over the potential dual sourcing of the island nation’s volcanic hot springs.

“It goes back thousands of years as you can imagine,” Nunoyama told WBUR through an interpreter. “In Japan, most of the hot springs are volcanic hot springs. So we use the same resources, the geothermal people and the onsen industry people, they use the same resources,” he says. “The development of the geothermal plants would take place near the hot spring resorts. That’s where the problem lies.”

However, a representative of the Japanese Geothermal Association countered saying drilling into deeper geothermal reservoirs would not damage the sources for Japan’s shallower hot springs.

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