Special

Inspector Encounters Bears in Solar Power Plant Site

2018/09/11 13:26
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
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A variety of wild animals live around solar power plants constructed in or near mountains. From the viewpoint of animals, solar power plants happen to be constructed in areas they inhabit. When the workers leave the sites after completion of construction work and the areas become quiet again, the animals begin to inhabit the areas again and may enter the actual sites in some cases. It is known that large mammals living in forests such as foxes, boars and deer enter solar power plant sites.

Boars enter the site by jumping over the fences or digging under the fences. They dig large holes in the ground using their snouts. When they dig near foundations at solar power plants, the bearing power of the soil declines to a level below the initial design. They sometimes break weed-proof sheets made of resin. They could adversely affect the long-term operation of power plants.

Deer also jump over fences and pass through gaps in fences. When they enter power plants, they sometimes jump on solar panels and the weight on their hoofs sometimes cracks the panels.

In the case introduced below, bears entered a solar power plant site. In the past, the discovery of brown bear footprints during a patrol of a solar power plant site in Hokkaido was reported.

A case of encountering bears, not just seeing their traces, is introduced here. The bears were discovered on the site of a solar power plant in Honshu, Japan's main island. The bears were Asian black bears. In Japan, brown bears live in Hokkaido, and Asian black bears live on Honshu and Shikoku Island. It is believed that Asian black bears in the Kyushu region have become extinct.

People encounter these bears in forests from spring to autumn, and attacks resulting in injury or death are reported nearly every year. Brown bears are more aggressive than Asian black bears, and people are required to take precautions in their territory.

A representative of a power producer discovered two Asian black bears on the site when he visited a mega (large-scale) solar power plant in mountains in the Tohoku region for inspection on one day in June. The two bears were walking around the solar panels (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Two bears discovered during a patrol and inspection of the mega solar power plant (source: The power producer)