A signboard that reads "Happy Service Kabushikigaisha Solar Monbetsu Kitahama Power Plant" can be found at about a 10-minute drive from the heart of Monbetsu City, Hokkaido. It is a mega- (large-scale) solar power plant with a total output of about 2.5MW (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: "Happy Service Solar Monbetsu Kitahama Power Plant" about 200m from the coastline of the Okhotsk Sea. (source: top Happy Service, bottom Nikkei BP)

Monbetsu City is situated in the northeast of Hokkaido and faces the Okhotsk Sea. Drift ice comes up to the coast in winter, and the atmospheric temperature sometimes falls below -15°C (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Facing the Okhotsk Sea, Monbetsu City sometimes sees the temperature fall below -15 degrees C. The drift ice was no longer by the coast on the day I visited. (source: Nikkei BP)

Some solar power plants are scattered throughout the city, and I could see many facilities through the car window. The "Happy Service Solar Monbetsu Kitahama Power Plant" is located about 200m from the coastline of the Okhotsk Sea.

The power producer, Happy Service Co Ltd (Monbetsu City, Hokkaido), is a local firm, and is also a sales agent of mobile phones. Established in May 1993, it later became a sales agent of Sharp Corp's solar power generation systems.

Sharp, for which Happy Service sells products as a sales agent, supplied the power generation system. Happy Service could not only procure a set of power generation systems at competitive prices for primary agents but also entrust its design to Sharp. It adopted PV inverters made by the manufacturer that Sharp recommended when designing the power generation system.

Happy Service is running four solar plants based on the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme (Fig. 3). All four plants are located in Monbetsu City. The company purchased three of the sites and rented one site. In addition, it is now planning a 1.5MW-output mega-solar power plant in a hilly area.

Fig. 3: Happy Service is running four FIT-based solar power plants in Monbetsu City. Above is the 1MW-output "Happy Service Solar Monbetsu Motoshin Power Plant." (source: Happy Service)