Visit to Plant

Prefectural Mega Solar Plant Affected by Heavy Snow This Winter?

Optimum array design results in more power generation than estimate even in snow

2018/03/19 17:31
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Institute
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In Japan, solar power plants have been developed more in areas with abundant sunshine such as the Pacific Ocean side. The Japan Sea side, where the weather is cloudier compared with the Pacific Ocean side, is often considered as disadvantageous in terms of the amount of solar radiation.

Fig. 1: The Niigata Tobu Solar Power Plant developed and operated by Niigata Prefecture's Bureau of Public Enterprise (source: Nikkei BP)

Solar radiation is less than on the Pacific Ocean side, and consideration given to the panel angle and height boost the initial cost. If the panel angle increases, the shade of arrays (a unit of solar panel installation on mounting systems) will grow longer and result in fewer panels being arrayed in the site. Solar power generators in the snow zone on the Japan Sea side sometimes call such conditions "triple difficulty."

Compared with the Pacific Ocean side, the Japan Sea side faces such disadvantages. However, there is a case in which an enterprise realized a profitable solar power generation project, launching the business by conquering the "triple difficulty" and succeeding by optimally running the plant after its operation began.

This time, I revisited the Niigata Tobu Solar Power Plant with a total output of about 23.55MW (grid capacity: 17MW) in Agano City, Niigata Prefecture (Fig. 1) and interviewed the operators about the impact of snow cover and other factors (See related article).