New smart town on Tokyo outskirts

Japan’s Fujisawa City is working with nine private sector firms to build a sustainable urban town which will see solar systems and battery storage technology installed in all homes and town facilities – a world first.

The project’s architects say the smart town could also become a model town that can be replicated in Japan’s earthquake-damaged areas.


The ‘Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town’, unveiled last Thursday, will cater for 1,000 households or a population of 3,000, and will be based on a collection of sustainability solutions, called Eco Ideas, from Japanese electronics giant Panasonic Corporation.


The partnership comes on the back of an agreement reached last November between Panasonic Corporation and the City of Fujisawa, located 50 kilometres west of Tokyo, to develop Panasonic’s former factory site into a smart town.


Panasonic and its partners, a group of developers, manufacturers and service providers, will combine efforts from the master planning stage to the actual operation of the town. The project, which costs US$742 million and spans 19 hectares, will be completed in 2014.


The project’s partner organisations are New York-listed technology consultants Accenture, Japanese conglomerates Mitsui & Co. and Mitsui Fudosan, Japanese architectural firm Nihon Sekkei, Japanese-based financial services firm ORIX Corporation, Panasonic’s housing unit PanaHome Corporation, Osaka-based Sumitomo Trust & Banking Co.and the Tokyo-listed Tokyo Gas.


Panasonic revealed on its website that it will create a model town that emits 70 per cent less carbon compared to the city’s 1990 levels. It will do this by applying energy-saving technology and solar power systems throughout the entire town.


Energy saving devices used in the smart town will include Ene-Farm fuel cells, a household fuel cell jointly developed by Panasonic and Tokyo Gas. The fuel cells, powered by oxygen from the atmosphere combined with the hydrogen from a small amount of natural gas, use the heat produced as by-product for heating air or water.


With a focus on energy management, the town’s homes will feature Panasonic’s Smart Energy Gateway (SEG) systems to monitor and manage the electricity used, generated and stored on site. Dubbing the project “a town that is connected from the start,” the town’s developers will connect homes, businesses and facilities to a smart grid that allows for efficient distribution of data and power. The idea, said Panasonic, was to allow for “optimal control without burdening the town’s residents.”


Other potential plans include energy efficient LED public lighting, infrastructure for electric car and bike sharing schemes, plans that incorporate parks and designs needed to accommodate renewable energy generation, and new ways to value real estate according to its environmental performance.


The city of Fujisawa and its partners plan to promote the project as a model of urban development both internationally and within the surrounding region, including the areas affected by the March earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan’s eastern coast.


Those areas, according to a recent World Bank estimate, will cost US$235 billion to rebuild.


Japan has experienced multiple energy crises, in addition to physical damage to its infrastructure, as a result of the disasters. An aftershock rated 7.1 on the Richter scale on 7 April caused the automatic shut-down of five of the region’s fossil fuel power plants, leaving more than four million homes without electricity. Nuclear plants in the area had been closed since the initial earthquake.


To address the issue of energy security and safety, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan last Wednesday committed to increasing the country’s renewable energy supply by a minimum of 20 per cent. He also added that he wanted 10 million of Japan’s rooftops to have solar panels within the next few decades.


The Fujisawa model, which plans for a solar panel on every home and minimal dependence on outside energy sources, could be a good starting point.



Originally published by Jenny Marusiak for ‘‘ on 31st May 2011.


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