By Chisato Tanaka
Japan Times, Tokyo
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) After enduring the ups and downs of starting her own business, Yumi Someya’s company now operates two power plants that generate 100 percent of their electricity from used cooking oil.
Japan Times, Tokyo
For Yumi Someya, Tokyo is an untapped oil field, full of potential to generate electricity.
The precious fuel, however, doesn’t exist underground. It’s a resource sitting in the kitchens of millions of Japanese homes — cooking oil.
Someya’s ultimate goal is to collect every last drop of used cooking oil, turn it into fuel and distribute the electricity generated from it to the households and businesses that provided it in the first place — a perfect cycle of energy.
“I want to tell consumers that there is an environment-friendly way to generate electricity that does not rely on nuclear power plants at all,” said Someya, 50.
Someya runs two organizations — U’s Corp., which turns used cooking oil into fuel, and Tokyo Yu Denryoku, which distributes electricity from two power plants that utilize the recycled fuel.
U’s collects around 60 tons of oil per month from 3,000 restaurants and 500 collection sites at pharmacies, gyms and other places throughout Tokyo and the surrounding area.
Someya has been in the business of recycling cooking oil for the past 27 years, but she became even more determined after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, causing three core meltdowns that contaminated the Tohoku region and depriving it of power.
Someya and her employees delivered food and supplies sent from Taiwan to Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. Each of the company’s cars bore a logo that said, “Fueled by used tempura oil.”
“People who saw them kept talking enthusiastically, saying Japan needs such renewable energy,” she said. “Even the local people who went through the worst and faced severe losses tried to encourage me to continue on with it.”