Visit to Plant

Solar Power Plant Welcomed as New City Landmark

Aim to build close ties with local community by setting up visitor facility

2013/10/07 18:43
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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Sanyo-Onoda City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, is the place where Japan's first cement manufacturer, Onoda Cement (present Taiheiyo Cement), originated. Still now, a number of firms related to heavy chemical industries such as ceramics, chemicals and oil, including the Taiheiyo Cement Group, operate in the city. However, some sites have been left idle by their owner companies as they could not be developed amid the drastic changes in the economy.

Adjoining soccer pitch

There is such an area along the coast, about a 30-minute walk from the city center. It is a 16ha industrial site owned by Taiheiyo Cement. At present, the site is covered with photovoltaic (PV) panels, some still being constructed. A mega solar (large-scale PV power plant) project to output approximately 13MW is slated to launch at the end of November 2013. The mega solar area will be part of an industrial site called "Higashioki Factory Park." Planted on the green space on the park's inland side are evergreen broadleaf oak trees.

The park is also provided with recreation facilities including tennis courts and a soccer pitch as well as a shopping center across the street. Walking around in the woods, which gradually get higher, in the green space, you can glimpse the solar panels spread across the site from between the trees. Most mega solar projects are usually away from the public eye. The mega solar project in Higashioki Factory Park, however, is characterized by its location accessible to citizens.

Leasing the land from Taiheiyo Cement and running the mega solar project is Mitsui Fudosan. Consulting with Taiheiyo Cement, which was looking for effective ways to use its idle land in Sanyo-Onoda City, Mitsui Fudosan proposed the mega solar project.

Formulating effective use of corporate real estate (CRE) is dubbed "CRE strategy," which, these days, is considered a major challenge in corporate management. Supporting enterprises' CRE strategy as developers, leading real estate companies are offering various solutions in accordance with the locations. Mega solar is one of the solutions.

"We are not intending to develop our business across Japan only for the mega solar business itself," said Kei Yamauchi, Business Planning Group leader, Office Building Project Planning Dept., Mitsui Fudosan. "We consider mega solar projects as one of the new CRE strategy solutions like 'LaLaPort Project' to manage retail facilities."

With these circumstances in mind, Mitsui Fudosan decided to get directly involved in the mega solar project without establishing a separate project company. As for investment costs, Mitsui Fudosan did not employ the "project finance" method, which requires financial institutions to finance the project itself.

"Mitsui Fudosan aimed to make the landowner company feel safe by taking responsibility for both human and financial aspects and approaching the mega solar project from the perspective of the landowner," Yamauchi said.

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