Accelerating agricultural solar power generation plant development

Large-scale solar sharing projects are attracting attention because solar power can be generated on abandoned fields, for which conversion from agricultural land was conventionally impossible, by utilizing a temporary conversion system.

A solar-sharing-type mega solar power plant of about 1MW was completed and started operation in Sosa City, Chiba Prefecture in 2017. In the same year, a very large solar-sharing-type mega solar power plant of about 35MW was completed and started operation in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture. Many of the conventional solar-sharing-type power plants were low-voltage projects of less than 50kW for business use (Fig. 12).

Fig. 12: The agricultural mega solar power plant in operation in Sosa City (source: Nikkei BP)

In many cases, agricultural mega solar power plants are constructed through collaboration between an agricultural production corporation rooted in the region, a major mega solar developer and a financial institution, and the schemes are effective for both efficient utilization of abandoned fields and acquisition of stable investors and lenders.

The business risk of mega solar power plant construction projects through large-scale forest development is becoming higher because of the forest development permission system, which is now stricter compared with the conventional system, and application of the "three-year limit for operation start." Agricultural mega solar projects can now obtain financing because it is understood that continued business operation will be possible for them through collaboration with local farmers, although the risk concerning renewal of "temporary conversion" every three years remains.