Visit to Plant

235MW Solar Plant Begins Commercial Operation in Okayama

'Safety, security' ensured by overcoming former salt farm's risk of submergence

2018/12/11 22:53
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
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Site as large as 100 Tokyo Domes

On October 1, 2018, the "Setouchi Kirei Solar Power Plant," which had been constructed on the former Kinkai Salt Farm, was completed and began commercial operation in Setouchi City, Okayama Prefecture, Japan. Its grand completion ceremony took place on November 9 with roughly 200 people related to the power producer, construction companies, finance companies and local government.

The project scale was about 500ha, which corresponds to about 100 Tokyo Domes and about ten Tokyo Disneylands. Approximately 920,000 solar panels were arrayed across the site. The panel capacity totals about 235MW while grid capacity to be connected with power transmission cables amounts to 186MW. This is the largest mega- (large-scale) solar power plant among those that have started operation in Japan.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, there was a plan to indicate that the huge solar salt farm, which was once the largest in the Orient, had been transformed into Japan's largest mega-solar plant. A large-scale image of the Kinkai Salt Farm when it was operating was hung behind the ribbon at the beginning of the ceremony. Then, as the ribbon was cut, the image was replaced with another of the whole mega-solar plant (Fig. 1 & 2).

Fig. 1: Image of Kinkai Salt Farm in operation hung at ribbon-cutting ceremony (source: Nikkei BP)

Fig. 2: Image of "Setouchi Kirei Solar Power Plant" constructed on the former Kinkai Salt Farm (source: Nikkei BP)

2 nearby observation points

Generally speaking, the vastness of mega-solar plants built on flat land cannot be realized from the height of human eyes. Therefore, observatories as high as a two-story building are set up for visitors at many mega-solar plants. However, the distant panels cannot be seen even from such observatories, making it impossible to capture the whole picture.

In that sense, the Setouchi Kirei Solar Power Plant has excellent observation points on both the south and north sides. Located on reclaimed land created by filling in the cove of Kinkai Bay, both sides of the flat ground that was originally the sea flat are small hills. The mega-solar plant can be viewed from the tourist facilities called "Ushimado Olive Garden" on the southern hill and "Michi-no-Eki Ippon Matsu Tenbodai" on the northern hill.

From Ushimado Olive Garden, the western side from the center of the mega-solar plant, where panels were arrayed almost across the entire site, can be easily viewed, whereas the eastern side is shaded by the mountains. From Michi-no-Eki Ippon Matsu Tenbodai which faces east, on the other hand, the panels arrayed on the eastern side as well as the embankment along the coast and the huge green area remaining near the embankment will come into view (Fig. 3 & 4).

Fig. 3: View from "Ushimado Olive Garden" (source: Nikkei BP)

Fig. 4: View from "Michi-no-Eki Ippon Matsu Tenbodai" (source: Nikkei BP)

This huge green belt is an environmental protection area dubbed "Kinkai Habitat." During the 40-plus years after the salt farm business finished, the reclaimed land area in Kinkai Bay has formed into salty wetland where rainwater and seawater mix along the coast. A unique ecosystem, in which reed communities, tiny streams and willow woods, among others, are growing together, has formed. In order to minimize the influence on the animals and plants there, a biotope, about 16ha in size, was built as an environmental protection project, and entry to the biotope was restricted.