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Japan’s Solar Shift

One thing that you can say about disasters is that they are rare opportunities to redo everything. A tabula rasa opportunity when it comes to rebuilding affected areas.

Japan is still recovering from the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11th and the nuclear crisis that it triggered.

The AFP is reporting that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to announce Japan’s decision to continue operating nukes in order to meet the countries current power needs, but to also a mandate that would require all new homes and buildings to be outfitted with solar panels as part of the upcoming G8 Summit in France.

Of course a mandate isn’t legislation, but the construction required does present an opportunity for a solar company to step in and take advantage of the increased opportunity for demand if they can offer an efficient solar option.

High Speed Rail News

Siemens is expanding its land holdings at its U.S. manufacturing plant to make sure that it has the capacity to meet future demand for High Speed Rail trains, It has purchased 20 acres of land adjacent to its train-making facility in Sacramento that sits on a 34-acre site. The company has made trains that run in Germany, China, Russia, and Spain. (CNN)

The Central Japan Railway Co. says it will throw its hat in the ring with other foreign companies in competing to develop the high-speed railway line earmarked for Florida, and suggests that it may partner with General Electric. (TampaBay)

The state Joint Finance Committee of Wisconsin voted 12-4 to confirm the states acceptance of the $810 million federal grant, to be spent on a 85 mile long high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. The vote was passed along partisan lines with the Democrats for and the Republican’s against. (BusinessWeek)

So Michigan has $244 million dollars allocated to construction of the of the Detroit-Chicago high-speed rail corridor, one  columnist from Freep weighs in on why the state should be happy it got so little — if they’d given more, then the they would have to figure out how to actually pay for the rest. (Freep)

The East Japan Railway and the Piezoelectric Effect


The Eastern Japan Railway company is taking something extra from its passengers. However this time its not a fare hike, the company is harnessing some of their Piezoelectric  energy. The Railway will be installing piezoelectric elements in the floors at its ticket gates and other high traffic areas of Tokyo Station.

This isnt’ the only place a piezoelectric floor has been used. Previously on Urban Neighbourhood we highlighted Club WATT, a nightclub in Rotterdam that uses  piezoelectric elements in its dance floor to power the light show in the club.

The panels in the floor use the piezoelectric effect; there are certain materials that when squeezed become charged and produce energy. The up and down action created by thousands of people stepping through the gate (from the floors point of view anyway) compresses cells containing piezoelectric material.  The downward pressure powers tiny generators beneath the floor which then send the electricity to batteries or back into the grid.

The Railway Company has been carrying out experiments with power generating floors since 2006. It aims to try to achieve a stable generating capacity. The total power generating area will cover about 25m2 in total, and will be installed at seven ticket gates in the Yaesu Kita exit and seven steps of a staircase inside the gate. In past experiments the panels were covered with a rubber surface but the company hopes to improve power generation by converting over to stone tiles similar to what is used on the other station surfaces. Currently the power is just being used to display the systems generating capacity, but the railway hopes to powers its ticketing systems and automatic gates in the future. S


Press Release from East Japan Railway company.

Demonstration Experiment Paper of the “Power-Generating Floor” at Tokyo Station(PDF).