Panasonic, the largest appliance maker in Japan, has announced plans to shutter 20 percent of its 230 factories in order to cut costs. But rather than lose that land, the company is capitalizing on Japan’s post-earthquake need for housing. It’s replacing the factories with “smart towns,” featuring "solar panels, energy-efficient refrigerators and rechargeable batteries," the company tells Bloomberg.

It's all part of the company's wider strategy to make the best of the contraction in its TV set business, and capitalize on the Japanese peoples' renewed interest in energy independence in the wake of blackouts caused by the shutdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Grist relies on the support of generous readers like you. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations matched!

By moving toward a whole new business model, Panasonic plans to become a company more focused on ways to use less electricity, and even to bring it to entirely new places. The company has plans, for example, to build solar-equipped residential blocks in India, where it is also building a new factory.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.