Visit to Plant

Sheep, Silo Give Bucolic Atmosphere to Solar Plant

16MW power plant built on undulating golf course

2014/01/26 03:41
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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A silo rises and sheep idyllically browse on grass around it. That is where "Nikke Machinaka Power Plant Akashi Tsuchiyama" started operation in Inamicho, Kako-gun, Hyogo Prefecture. The pastoral atmosphere is completely different from the generally cold image of mega (large-scale) solar power plants (Fig. 1 & 2).

This is a mega solar power plant with 16.817MW output constructed by the Japan Wool Textile Co Ltd (Nikke) on the former "Nikke Golf Club Tsuchiyama Course," a miniature golf course that closed in September 2012.

To keep project costs low, Nikke built the plant by making the smallest changes possible to the former golf course site. As a result, the ponds and undulations that characterized the golf course were left unchanged while as many trees as possible were left. The former clubhouse is now being used as a station where electrical chief engineers are on standby and the sheep rest at night. The sheep are kept in the former bathroom.

To offer comfort, friendliness

Sheep and goats have recently been adopted for weeding at many mega solar power plants, but, in the case of Nikke, their adoption was, in fact, not primarily aimed at weeding.

The glass-covered solar panels cannot help but give a hard impression. When as many as 50,000 such panels are spread across the site, what measures can be applied so as not to give a cold, suffocating impression to the neighboring residents? Nikke tackled this challenge.

The company left a large portion of the green from the golf course (Fig. 3) and pastured the sheep with the aim of offering comfort and friendliness instead. A sheep is also used as a mascot character of Nikke, whose original business is wool spinning and weaving, and, therefore, plays a part in the company's public relations.

There are three sheep that are put out to graze in an area of about 15,000m2 in the plant site, which has a total area of approximately 220,000m2. This 15,000m2 is the area where most of the golf course's greens have been kept. The other area is covered by weed control sheets.

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