Itako City, Ibaraki Prefecture, is a lakeside town located between Lake Kasumigaura and Lake Kitaura. The town prospered as an important water transportation point during the Edo era. It is now the end of the Higashi Kanto Expressway, and "Road Station Itako" is always crowded with many drivers thanks to its convenience for cars.
On February 1, 2014, the 14.7MW-output mega (large-scale) solar power plant "Suigo Itako Solar" was completed on an 18-hectare area of land that adjoins the roadside station; the completion ceremony was also conducted. This is currently the largest operating mega-solar power plant in the Kanto area (Fig. 1).
On the premises of the roadside station, there is an observatory, from which the overall mega-solar power plant can be viewed. By displaying "Suigo Itako Solar Observatory" signs throughout the roadside station, the solar power plant is spotlighted as a new prefectural landmark. The 60,000 solar panels neatly arrayed across the land extend to an area 3.8 times the size of the Tokyo Dome. And, seen from the observatory, the furthest panels look like they are overlapping one another and creating a blue sea (Fig. 2).
Overall plan led by environmental venture
The power producer is TMK Suigoitako Solar Inc (Itako City, Ibaraki Prefecture). The site where the power plant was constructed is the property of Itako City and multiple private landowners. The landowners formed a land management union, which is represented by Itako City. Suigo Itako Solar rents this land and runs the power selling business.
Suigo Itako Solar is financed by the environmental venture Renova Inc (Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo) (38%), Mitsuuroko Green Energy Co Ltd (32%), Fuyo General Lease Co Ltd (19.9%) and Mizuho Capital Co Ltd (10.1%). Renova leads the project as the developer, with Representative Director & CEO Yosuke Kiminami also serving as the president of Suigo Itako Solar.
Renova changed its name from the former Recycle One Inc in January 2014. Since it was established by Kiminami in 2000, the company has grown by focusing on the recycling business. Renova can be referred to as Japan's representative environmental venture.
"We decided to change the name of our company as it did not fit our business content any more since we started developing the mega-solar power plant business," Kiminami said.
Amid the fierce competition in discovering candidate sites and the construction of mega-solar power plants among developers backed by major capital throughout Japan, it is unusual that a venture company is leading a mega-solar power plant whose output is as large as about 15MW. Regarding this point, Kiminami looked back, "We could never have won the project order from Itako City if we had not been a venture company."
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