Visit to Plant

Abandoned Farmland Serves as Solar Site

Amount of power generation boosted by overload, CIS solar cells

2013/12/07 23:31
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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Takasecho, Mitoyo City, Kagawa Prefecture, is well known as a tea-growing district. The completion ceremony of "Orix Mitoyo Mega-Solar Power Plant" took place there Oct 21, 2013.

"Amaterasu Omikami is the sun god. It must be fate that I can announce the completion of a solar power plant and pray for its future safety."

After the Shinto priest said a solemn prayer, Mayor Tadashi Yokoyama of Mitoyo City, President Koichi Sakaguchi of Asahigaoka Sangyo (Mitoyo City, Kagawa), who is also the chairman of Mitoyo City Council, Executive Officer Yuichi Nishigori of Orix Corp and Executive Managing Director Masato Nanba of Takenaka Corp cut the tape in front of the brand new large-scale solar power plant (Fig. 1).

Solar power plant built on former farm

Orix Mitoyo Mega-Solar Power Plant is a 30-minute drive from Kotohira Station, which is the nearest train station to Kotohiragu, on the JR Yosan Line and is situated in flatland surrounded by hills (Fig. 2). Green and yellow-green shrubs cover the surrounding mountains, with tea and other plantations scattered on the slopes. As you walk along the path leading to the solar power plant, you will find bamboo groves, which are often seen in wasteland, and "No dumping!" and other signboards warning against illegal dumping. According to a survey by the Agricultural Committee of Mitoyo City, abandoned arable land accounts for 20% of all fields that are intended for rice and other crops, or about 40% excluding rice fields.

In fact, the site of this power plant was previously a chicken farm run by Asahigaoka Sangyo until about ten years ago. The site partly became idle after the business closed. It was earmarked for use after Kagawa Prefecture had requested its municipalities to look for large areas of developed land because it had been asked to introduce appropriate sites by large-scale solar power plant operators following the implementation of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) program.

Kagawa Prefecture introduced some solar power plant operators to Asahigaoka Sangyo, the landowner. After the bidding process, Orix was selected for a variety of reasons including rent terms, reliability as a business operator and measures to contribute to local society. Orix's subsidiary, OR Solar, rented the 3,400m2 land owned by Asahigaoka Sangyo, installed solar panels with an output of 2.346MW and sells the generated electricity to Shikoku Electric Power Co Ltd under the FIT program.

"We changed the category of the land containing the solar power plant from an agricultural site to a housing hybrid site after the chicken farm was closed," President Sakaguchi of Asahigaoka Sangyo said. "It was relatively easy to build the solar power plant since the land category was already converted from an agricultural site."

Asahigaoka Sangyo is considering constructing another 2MW solar power plant on the adjoining site. President Sakaguchi, who is also the chairman of Mitoyo City Council, is promoting large-scale solar power plant construction as a measure to effectively use abandoned farms, which are gradually increasing in number in the surrounding area.

To lease farming land to someone and set up solar power generation facilities there, the landowner has to apply for conversion of the land category; however, approval is generally difficult. Asahigaoka Sangyo was able to construct the solar power plant in a short period as it had already converted the site's land category.

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