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'Solar Sharing' Might Bring Extra Income to Farmers (page 3)

Multi-profit-type business stemming from solar sharing

2013/10/24 20:41
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP Cleantech Institute
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Farming families’ fundraising ability, administrative discretion hold key to future development

The future development of solar sharing depends on the fundraising ability of farming families and the discretion of MAFF and other public administrators.

Regarding fundraising, it is easy to estimate power sales generated by the system to be introduced. But it is difficult to predict the agricultural part, which can easily be affected by changes in the weather and the fact that land zoned for agricultural use is difficult to put up for collateral. And it leads to the concern that loans by financial institutions may be hard to come by.

According to Kyudenko, it costs ¥350,000 to 400,000 per kW as an initial investment with solar sharing whereas the cost is only about ¥280,000 per kW for a general large-scale solar power plant. This can be attributed to the cost of the basic construction to erect posts on the typically soft ground of farmland, the cost of the mounting systems to set solar panels at a height of about 4m and the increasingly expensive cost of connecting isolated farmland to the power grid.

Compared with general large-scale solar power plants, which are planned to collect the initial investment over seven to eight years, solar sharing is said to need 14 to 15 years to recoup its costs. Furthermore, if the mounting system was established as a structure in compliance with the Building Standards Act, it would require more cost to meet earthquake resistance standards and other criteria.

In terms of administrative discretion, there is also the challenge of public administrative bodies possibly being reluctant to permit the conversion of land zoned for agricultural use. This point is, however, expected to change due to crop results and other factors in the future.

Application to free-range chicken farm

Renaissance Eco Farm is also operating a solar sharing system combining a free-range chicken farm and solar power generation on an adjoining site (Fig. 4).

Under the C-shaped roof-mounted solar panels is a poultry farm surrounded by chicken wire, with the birds roaming freely. This system’s maximum output is 9.9kW. Given the fact that chickens are being kept inside, the foundation was built high enough to prevent attacks from animals such as weasels.

Inside the farm can be found hens that are about to stop producing eggs, which were bought at a cost of about ¥1,000 each (Fig. 5). Renaissance Eco Farm aims for the effective use of organic waste by using the food waste disposed of at its noodle restaurant as chicken feed.

The hens started to produce eggs again after being transferred to this free-range farm, probably because of the unconstrained environment there. With the value added as being eggs from free-range chickens, the eggs are sold at about ¥30 each.