The Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant, Japan’s largest utility-scale solar plant to date, began operations on 1st November 2013. The clean electricity it generates will provide equivalent power for roughly 22,000 average households, and will help to offset about 25,000 tons of CO2 per year. Situated in Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Japan, the plant is being operated by electronics giant, Kyocera, in conjunction with six other companies. Its overall cost came in at around 27 billion yen ($275.5 million).
The impressive looking plant covers an area of some 1,270,000 sqm – roughly the same as 27 baseball stadiums. A tour facility has been built adjacent to it, featuring a circular viewing room where visitors can observe the 290,000 solar panels from an elevated vantage point, with the ocean and (the still active) Sakurajima volcano in the background. The aim is to deepen public understanding of renewable energy and its importance.
Indeed, expectations and interest in solar energy have reached new levels in Japan in response to power supply issues resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011. To further promote the use of renewable energy, the Japanese government launched a restructured FIT program in July 2012, which stipulates that local utilities are required to purchase 100% of the power generated from solar installations of more than 10 kilowatts (kW) for a period of 20 years. Accordingly, all the electricity generated by the new Kagoshima plant will be sold to a local utility.
Exploring a new business model for utility-scale solar power generation, Kagoshima Mega Solar Power Corporation was established by Kyocera and six other companies in July 2012. Under a financing plan devised by Mizuho Corporate Bank, the new company was tasked to develop and operate the 70MW solar power plant on land owned by IHI Corporation, with the power generated to be purchased by Kyushu Electric Power Co Inc under the FIT program. As the largest shareholder of the new company, the Kyocera Group was responsible for the supply of solar modules as well as part of the construction, and will also undertake maintenance of the system with Kyudenko Corporation.