29 July 2011
Elon Musk, best known for co-founding PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, has donated $250,000 through the Musk Foundation to build a solar power system in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.
The Musk Foundation was established in 2001 to promote research and educational endeavours in renewable energy, science and engineering, paediatrics and human space exploration.
Musk is visiting an area of Soma City today that was devastated by the tsunami in March 2011 for a ceremony at the site where the project will be built. SolarCity, of which Musk is chairman in addition to his CEO positions at SpaceX and Tesla Motors, is donating time and resources to manage the project. This project will provide clean renewable electricity to a water treatment plant located on reclaimed industrial land not suitable for agriculture in an area still recovering from the effects of the tsunami.
The solar arrays will consist of high-efficiency solar panels manufactured in Japan and will be installed by local workers in Fukushima. The project will create local construction jobs and can act as a model for the reuse of disaster-stricken areas in other parts of Japan for clean energy generation.
Much of the eastern portion of Soma was flooded by the devastating tsunami following the massive 9.0 earthquake on 11 March 2011. The city is about 43 kilometres (~27 miles) north of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the site of the nuclear accident caused by the tsunami. Soma City's agriculture, dairy and fishing industries were devastated by the tsunami and tourism has been hurt by concerns about any lasting effects of the nuclear disaster. Despite Soma City's proximity to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, the winds and topography have protected the city and prevented the need for citizens to evacuate. Musk hopes that by visiting the region, he can demonstrate that it's safe for others, both inside and outside Japan.