Japanese firms agree to build 70MW solar project

Three Japanese companies are to collaborate to build a 70MW solar plant in southern Japan in an effort to help solve the country’s energy supply problems.

The companies, solar firm Kyocera, engineering company IHI and the Mizuho Corporate Bank, hope that the so-called “mega-solar plant”, could help plug a gap in supply caused by the Fukushima nuclear power crisis in 2011, which has resulted in all but one of Japan’s nuclear power stations being taken offline.

The companies have also agreed to further explore the business model for utility-scale solar power generation, paving the way for similar power stations if the initial project is a success.

Set to be built in Kagoshima City, in the Kagoshima Prefecture, the solar plant is planned for a 314 acre plot of land owned by IHI. The total cost of the project is estimated at approximated 25 billion yen ($309 million), with construction expected to begin in July.

Kyocera will supply the solar modules, and jointly construct and maintain the plant with IHI, which will also lease the land and operate the project. Mizuho will devise a financing plan for the project. A special purpose company, with Kyocera as the largest shareholder, will undertake the business operation of the power plant.

The companies plan to use 290,000 of Kyocera’s multicrystalline solar modules, taking capacity to 70MW and making it the largest officially announced solar power plant in Japan. The plant will generate approximately 79,000MWh a year of providing the equivalent power for roughly 22,000 households.

Kyocera and IHI have also enlisted the support of KDDI Corporation, Kyudenko Corporation, Kagoshima Bank, Takenaka Corporation for possible involvement in future solar plants.

The three companies behind the Kagoshima plant said that Japanese expectations and interest in solar energy have now heightened to “a new level”, with the planned start of a revamped feed-in tariff (FIT) program in July, and the need to resolve power supply issues caused by the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Before the earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima crisis in March 2011, Japan generated around a quarter of its energy from nuclear power, and now the country is facing increasingly high electricity prices as it looks to source gas from the Middle East to power its gas-fired generating stations.

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