Japan’s biggest solar energy plant starts generating power

Japan’s biggest solar power plant opened in the southwestern Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima on Monday.

The photovoltaic plant is a major new attempt to develop the country’s renewable energy resources amid lingering public concern over the impact of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster.

The facility, the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant designed by Japanese electronics giant Kyocera Corporation, was built in the center of an industrial zone in southern Kagoshima City, one of the few areas in Japan where the number of clear sky days stays at around 40 days.

According to Kyocera, the 70-megawatt solar power plant facing Sakurajima Volcano, the city’s landmark across the bay, covers an area of approximately 1.27 million square meters. It is equipped with 290,000 solar panels to supply power for about 22,000 local households, making it the biggest solar generation plant in Japan. Kyocera had been building the solar park since September of last year, spending around 27 billion yen (around 270 million U.S. dollars).

On Monday afternoon, more than 120 people including representatives from local governments, financial institutions and Kyocera engineering teams attended an inauguration ceremony held at the plant site.

Presiding over the official event’s opening was Nobuo Kitamura, the president of Kagoshima Mega Solar Power Corporation, the plant ‘s operator. He promised that the power company’s staff would work with local residents to make full use of the renewable energy generated, hoping that the engineering team will offer an “answer” to solve Japan’s energy problem and pass on a “cleaner Earth” to the next generation.

“We would like to contribute to new development and improvement for human societies through a new type of energy production from Kagoshima, the place where many courageous samurai challenged the ancient political and social regime in the 1860s to reform the country,” the president said.

Following the speech, Kagoshima Governor Yuichiro Ito expressed hope that the new plant will become a pioneering Japanese facility to create a low-carbon society in the near future and protect the global environment. He also stated that a joint understanding and action by the plant operator, local industries, local government and local residents will ensure further promotion of renewable energy resource usage.

After the ceremony, a 51-year-old chief engineer told Xinhua that since the power plant is located near the active volcano, his team has been forced to take a series measures on solar panels to minimize the impact of ash fall from the mountain which is repeatedly erupting.

He said, “Our team has carefully worked out the best angle for the solar panels over the past months and we would like to further keep a record on the unique situation by the volcanic mountain, also causes darkness due to the ash released.”

A 39-year-old city official also pointed out that it is quite natural for many regular citizens to want the introduction of new energy resources after the country’s 2011 nuclear crisis.

“In addition to solar, Kagoshima City and surrounding areas, with their major volcanos and islands, have many possible energy resources wherever you are, such as geothermal power, wind power and tidal current power, and we must promote their use as tools to revitalize the country and local economy,” the official added.

According to the power company, the generated electricity will be supplied to the local grid to sell in accordance with the country’s feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme for renewable energy.