Visit to Plant

Suburban Solar Plant Shows Consideration for Locals

'Eco farm' run using part of revenues from power selling business

2014/02/18 17:55
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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Higashimatsuyama City, which is located in the middle of Saitama Prefecture, is known for its numerous parks and their rich nature. Given its location, less than one hour by train from Ikebukuro Station on the Tobu Tojo Line, it is also a commuter town with a population of about 90,000.

"Higashimatsuyama Kagayaki Power Plant" is a 2MW-capacity mega (large-scale) solar power plant adjoining a residential area that is a 30-minute walk from Higashimatsuyama Station, the city's central part. Since operations started in August 2013, the plant has smoothly continued to generate more power than expected (Fig. 1).

The power plant is adjacent to a municipal hospital, a welfare institution and an elementary school, with a large-scale residential area on the opposite side of a river. The municipal road running along the site is used as a walking route by local residents. In the morning and afternoon, you can see school children walking to and from school in front of the power plant.

"It is unusual that a 2MW mega-solar power plant started operation at a place one-hour from central Tokyo," said President Takuya Ogushi of Smart Energy Co Ltd (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo). "We are hoping to contribute to the local community as an urban mega-solar power plant that neighbors a housing area."

Smart Energy also financed Higashimatsuyama Kagayaki Power Plant (Higashimatsuyama City, Saitama Prefecture), a special purpose company (SPC) that is engaged in the planning, development and construction of the power plant and serves as the business operator.

Project revenues partly used for regional contribution activities

In late January, I visited the power plant to collect information. On that day, dozens of other people were also making field trips to the plant by bus from Saitama Prefecture. Inside the power plant, which is in a fenced enclosure, there were two second-hand containers near the entrance. And a board was seen on one of the containers. On the board was written with a writing brush "Taiyo no Sato Higashimatsuyama Kagayaki Power Plant" (Fig. 2). This was a work by the calligraphy club at Saitama Prefectural Matsuyama Girls High School.

Housed inside the containers were PV inverters produced by Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems Corp (TMEIC). In the power plant, 7,994 solar panels manufactured by Sharp Corp were set up. The installation angle was as small as 10° (Fig. 3).

"Considering the plant site is adjoining houses, we decided on the installation angle giving priority to making sure the solar panels did not reflect light onto the windows of the neighboring houses," said Electric and PV Facility Manager Hideharu Kihara of Smart Energy Service, Smart Energy's group company engaged in the plant's construction, management and operation.

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