â€œSolar apartmentsâ€, or apartment buildings equipped with roof-top solar panels, are becoming the latest trend in the Japanese residential real-estate industry. A number of solar apartments are already speckling Japanese cityscapes across the country, with many more planned for the coming year.
Leading the charge is the development company Takara Leben, whose first solar apartment went on sale last June in the city of Wako, near Tokyo. Almost immediately the new development sold out, with eager home-buyers scrambling to buy up one of its 112 units.
The success in Wako has given Takara Leben impetetus to push for more solar apartments in its development portfolio. According to Takara Leben, executive officer at Takara Leben: â€œwhenever the conditions allow, we want all our new apartments fitted with solar panels.â€
Currently, the maximum height for solar apartments is about 6 stories. Any higher than that and the building would be less efficient at delivering solar power to its tenants, since the amount of electricity generated is correlated with the surface area of the roof.
Probably the biggest reason solar apartments are doing so well is because of lingering fears in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Many households were without power in the weeks following the massive earthquake, and since then, many people have been calling for greater development of renewable energy sources.
The new solar apartments are less reliant on grid power and come equipped with large batteries in case there is a power outage. But in addition to assuaging peopleâ€™s fears about being out of power following a disaster, the new apartments are also much cheaper in the long-term.
According to Takara Leben, its new solar apartment can cut electricity bills by 56%. For some people, this would decrease their energy bill from Â¥14,035 a month to Â¥6,150 a month (from $170 to $70 US).
Seeing the success of Takara Lebenâ€™s apartments, many other developers have decided to construct solar apartments of their own.
What are your thoughts on solar apartments? Do you think they would be as popular outside of Japan?
Image: Takara Leben; Leben Heim Hikarigaoka Park uses rooftop solar panels to power units