Visit to Plant

2MW Solar Plant Monitored by Resident Safety Engineer

Hanwha Q Cells Japan partners local NPO

2014/08/23 19:12
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute
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Tokushima Prefecture boasts one of the highest amounts of sunshine in Japan. Awa City, facing the south side of the Asan Mountains, in particular, seldom gets shaded by the mountains. The "Awa-Nishi Solar Hills Power Plant," located in an optimum place for solar power generation, is a mega- (large-scale) solar power plant with an output of about 2MW (Fig. 1).

The plant started operation in July 2013 with Shikoku Green Agency (hereafter Shikoku GA), a non-profit organization (NPO) in Awa City, planning and developing it and solar panel manufacturer Hanwha Q Cells Japan Co Ltd (Minato-ku, Tokyo) being the power producer.

At this plant, you can see facilities that would never be seen at any other mega-solar power plants. First, you will find a "mailbox" at the entrance of the fence surrounding the power plant (Fig. 2). Then, you will find two prefabricated buildings and a temporary toilet immediately after entering the site. Beyond them is a tent-style storehouse that contains grass cutters, etc. (Fig. 3).

Normally, mega solar power plants do not have any safety engineers stationed at power generation sites. At most mega-solar power plants, the power generation conditions are remotely monitored and safety engineers regularly visit the site for inspection after operation starts. It is required to place a dedicated electric chief engineer at a mega-solar power plant with an output of 2MW or more, but the engineer does not always have to be at the site. Accordingly, general mega-solar power plants are mostly left unattended.

Amid such circumstances, the "Awa-Nishi Solar Hills Power Plant" hired a resident safety engineer to serve at the site. It was for the resident engineer that the mailbox, temporary toilet and prefabricated buildings were set up. Always working at the site is Koichi Okamoto of Shikoku GA (Fig. 4). The NPO endeavors to develop and diffuse reusable energy in the Shikoku area in conjunction with municipalities, etc. Okamoto is an employee of the NPO and a "safety engineering assistant manager of the Awa-Nishi Solar Hills Power Plant" at the same time.

He comes to the power plant every day, patrols the 42,000m2 site, inspects the solar panels and other facilities and writes daily reports. In addition, he presents the inspection results of about 40 items once a month to the power producer, Hanwha Q Cells Japan.

"When we were entrusted with operation and management (O&M) by power producer Hanwha Q Cells Japan, we also gained its approval for the employment of a resident safety engineer to be stationed at the plant," said Shikoku GA's Chairman Hiroaki Otsuka.

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