Large-scale solar power takes off in Japan
The SoftBank Kyoto Solar Park
Toshiba is entering Japan’s burgeoning renewables market with one of the country’s largest solar projects, in the tsunami-hit city of Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture.
The industrial giant and the city authorities will jointly invest $380 million to build mega solar power plants as part of the reconstruction of the city, which was severely damaged by the earthquake-triggered tsunami in March 2011.
The plants will have a total capacity to generate 100MW electricity.
According to a Toshiba spokesperson in Tokyo, Chimiko Maeda, construction will begin at any moment and the plants are set to be operational in April 2014.
Chimiko declined to reveal how the investment will be split between Toshiba and the municipality.
The two partners are keen to have Japanese firms to set up a special purpose company to operate the solar plants.
Chimiko acknowledged that the 100MW output will be a fraction of the electricity that was generated by nuclear power in Japan before the Fukushima tragedy struck.
Toshiba and Minamisoma are also evaluating the possibility of establishing a next-generation ‘smart community’ focusing on efficient energy use.
Minamisoma, which had a population of 71,000 before the disaster, is a coastal port 20km north of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant.
It is now the site of the worst crisis since the Chernobyl nuclear accident that occurred in April 1986 in Ukraine.
In a separate development, Osaka Gas Co (OGC) said in a statement that it will build three very large solar plants in Osaka, Okayama and Wakayama.
The plants, which will cost the company $12.67 million, will have a combined capacity of 3.5MW, equivalent to the power consumption of 915 Japanese households.
OGC is one of several companies moving into power generation to take advantage of new Feed-In Tariffs that came into effect in Japan on 1 July.
The Government introduced the measure to stimulate investment in non-nuclear clean energy.
Utilities are required to purchase all electricity generated from five renewable energy sources at a fixed price determined by the government for a certain period.
The five renewables eligible for FITs are solar, wind, biomass, mini-hydro and geothermal.
Among the other companies that have plans for solar plants are Softbank which is teaming up with Mitsui for a 30MW facility in Yonago in the Tottori Prefecture that is scheduled to start in 2013.
According to media reports, the company is also planning a plant in Hokkaido with a capacity of 111MW capacity, even larger than Toshiba’s venture.
Softbank has also confirmed plans for several 2-4MW installations with Sharp and Kyocera as partners.
Kintetsu, a railway firm is working on a 20MW plant.
All Japan’s nuclear power stations were shut down in the months following the Fukushima disaster.
There were public protests as the operator of the Ohi plant restarted one reactor on 1 July, even though the prime minister has said the move is essential for the national economy and to avoid power shortages over the summer.
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