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Sheep, Silo Give Bucolic Atmosphere to Solar Plant (page 2)

16MW power plant built on undulating golf course

2014/01/26 03:41
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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Before the use of the sheep, Nikke verified in May and June 2013 whether or not the sheep would climb onto the panels or chew the wires. The company concluded that the sheep would do no harm to the facilities. And it released the three sheep adopted from Rokkosan Pasture (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture) into the site in October 2013 when the plant started selling electricity. The sheep management is entrusted to the subsidiary Nikke Fudosan. The sheep attendants are local residents.

As for the weeding effect in question, "The sheep have grown fat, eating more grass than expected," an attendant of Nikke Fudosan said (Fig. 4). However, it also slowly became apparent that the sheep have strong preferences, being reluctant to eat certain kinds of grass and eating tree leaves at heights above themselves.

Silo from time of sheep farm

The land where the mega solar power plant was constructed had been once used as a pasture for cows and sheep for wool spinning and weaving, Nikke's original business, before being used as a golf course. A reminder of that time is the silo used to store feedstuff. Situated on the east, south and west sides of the solar panels today are plants, a school and a hospital, respectively (Fig. 5).

While considering changing the land's usage resulting from factors including a decreased golfing population, Nikke discussed a plan to flatten the land and sell it to Hyogo Prefecture for an industrial park development. Hit by the Lehman Shock in 2008, however, it became uncertain whether Nikke could find a buyer who would use the land in an optimal way. The company then decided to enter the market for selling electricity based on mega solar power plants and closed the golf course in September 2012 as the feed-in-tariff (FIT) program for reusable energy was implemented in July the same year.

When the mega solar power plant project is completed, the total output will reach 16.817MW. Phase 1 area's output totals 11.035MW, and power generation started in October 2013. Phase 2 is slated for an output of 5.782MW, and power generation will start in February 2014. The number of solar panels installed in Phase 1 and 2 is 36,784 and 18,068, respectively. The amount of power generation in the Phase 1 area, which has started power sales, has reportedly met the estimates.

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