11MW Solar-sharing Project Underway in Fukushima
Japanese ginger grown under solar panels
Toyo Energy Farm Co Ltd (Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture) started a power sales business based on solar sharing (agricultural solar power plant) in Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, in December 2017.
The power plant consists of three sites in Yotsuguri, Uwanezawa, Odaka-ku, Minamisoma City, and three sites in Nakata, Koyagi, Odaka-ku. Including a site that is scheduled to start power sales March 29, 2018, the plant will have an output of 11.3MW and is expected to generate 13,160,000kWh of electricity per year. It will be the largest-class solar-sharing facility in Japan, according to Toyo Energy Farm.
The site of the project (18.5ha of farmland) was used for agriculture before the Great East Japan Earthquake. However, after the earthquake, due to the aging of farmers and the designation as a "zone in preparation for the lifting of the evacuation order" (lifted in July 2016), the farmland had been idled. This time, the solar-sharing project is carried out by using the system to temporarily change the land category of farmland.
Normal-sized solar panels were installed on mounting systems with a minimum ground clearance of 2.2m, and Japanese ginger, which grows even in shade, is cultivated under the panels. The solar panel and PV inverter employed for the plant are products of AU Optronics Corp and Switzerland-based ABB, respectively. The power generation facilities are leased from Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing Co Ltd (SMFL, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo).
The government of Minamisoma City is promoting renewable energy-related efforts as an important policy for recovery from the earthquake. With the solar-sharing project, it aims to effectively use idled farmland and create local jobs as well as to create a local brand of Japanese ginger.
As for large-scale solar-sharing projects in Japan, "SJ Solar Tsukuba Power Plant," which Shanghai Electric Power Co Ltd runs in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture, seems to be the largest in Japan with an output of 35MW (See related article).