Visit to Plant

Large-scale Solar Plant Blends in With Local Community

To be the power supply next to a wide-area disaster prevention base when disaster strikes

2013/11/02 19:57
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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Since the period of rapid economic growth, a number of suburban housing subdivisions have been developed for the steadily increasing population in Japan. As new towns are developed, new people and families come to live there, and new relationships begin in the neighborhood.

Such a style of Japanese society has changed over a long time, and neighborly ties are weakening. This phenomenon is said to be observed not only in metropolitan areas but also in suburban housing subdivisions in rural areas.

However, the importance of local communities based on such neighborly ties has been increasingly revalued since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

There is a large-scale solar power plant constructed next to such a suburban housing subdivision in a rural city. It is “Ise Futami Mega Solar Hikari no Machi (town of light),” which was constructed by Sanko Real Estate Co Ltd. (Tsu City, Mie Prefecture), a subsidiary of Mie Kotsu Group Holdings Inc. (Fig. 1 & 2). Sanko Real Estate has been developing real estate primarily along the bus routes run by Mie Kotsu.

Constructed in commercial zone in housing subdivision

“Hikari no Machi,” the housing subdivision adjoining this solar power plant, is located on a hill, about a 10-minute drive from JR Futamiura Station. Land purchase started in the 1970s and the sale of housing lots started in 1997 with a total of 606 lots prepared. As of today, about 300 lots are occupied.

From the beginning of the development, it was planned that the houses would be built on the north side of the housing subdivision and commercial facilities serving the residents would be built in the remaining 10ha on the south side. Candidate facilities included a hospital and supermarket; however, the south side has been left idle as no firm has ever wanted to move in.

What changed this situation was the Great East Japan Earthquake. Power shortages became a reality in the service area of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and the feed-in tariff (FIT) system for renewable energy started amid the highest-ever interest in energy.

Is it possible to construct a service facility that supplies power to support one of the basic elements of human life and use it as a reserve power supply for emergencies in the local community while selling electricity during usual conditions? Moreover, on the south side of Hikari no Machi is the wide-area disaster prevention base of Mie Prefecture.

Partly because Mie Prefecture’s Governor Eikei Suzuki was responsible for renewable energy at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, he had strong feelings about energy issues and declared, “Mie Prefecture will lead the promotion of renewable energies,” which, as a result, facilitated the solar power plant project in Hikari no Machi.

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