Visit to Plant

Suburban Solar Plant Shows Consideration for Locals (page 2)

'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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The power plant's name board and panel installation angle are representative of its consideration for the local community. Another feature of this power plant's regional contribution measures is the adjacent site that it manages as an "eco-farm" to grow plants. As you walk along the visitor's route looking at the solar panels, you will come to an empty lot without panels. There is a notice saying "blueberry trees planted.” The saplings, about knee-height, are planted evenly at intervals of about 1m (Fig. 4).

"The blueberries are likely to root well," Kihara said, expressing relief.

He said many of the herbs, raspberries and other plants that have been planted since the power plant started operation did not root and withered.

"Should the blueberry trees grow and produce a lot of berries, we hope the local residents will be able to enjoy them," Kihara said. And Ogushi said, "From now, we’re hoping to plan various regional contribution activities other than planting blueberry trees."

The plant will allot some of its business revenues to the planning costs for the eco-farm and other regional contribution activities. This rule was prescribed in the agreement signed between the power plant and Higashimatsuyama City in the course of the mega-solar power plant development project.

The site extends to approximately 6ha combining the mega-solar power plant and the eco-farm. Although the land is entirely private property, it has been positioned as part of the Saitama Eco-Town Project and has been fully supported by Saitama Prefecture and Higashimatsuyama City from the planning stage. On August 17, 2013, administration heads including Governor Kiyoshi Ueda of Saitama Prefecture, Mayor Koichi Morita of Higashimatsuyama City and Chairman Yoshikazu Oyama of the City Council were all present at the power plant's opening ceremony.

'Home of stink bugs' transforms into mega-solar plant

In fact, it was the complaints by citizens frequently filed to Higashimatsuyama City that precipitated the mega-solar power plant construction project. Oaza Matsuyama district in Higashimatsuyama City, where the mega-solar power plant and the eco-farm are located, was called the "home of stink bugs" by local people.

Matsuyama district had abandoned farmland that had been neglected partly because it was once used for industrial waste disposal. As a result, it became a wasteland filled with head-high grass, and there were frequent mass outbreaks of stink bugs that release a strong odor. Complaints such as "washed clothes and futons cannot be dried outside" were directed at the city. The city requested more than 20 landowners to weed the grass every time the complaints were made.

During Higashimatsuyama City's consultations regarding the use of Matsuyama district with Saitama Prefecture, the construction of the large-scale solar power plant started, led by the Smart Energy Group, which was familiar with some prefectural government employees. The project was also positioned as part of the Saitama Eco-Town Project that focuses on the spread of reusable energies.

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