Japanese trading conglomerate Marubeni moves into residential solar

MarubeniOne of Japan’s largest trading companies, Marubeni, which is already involved in both upstream and downstream sectors of PV industry, has entered the domestic market for residential solar.

Marubeni announced yesterday that its offering will include modules, inverters and mounting systems. Typically residential solar in Japan is marketed in complete kit form by most providers in this way.

PV Tech spoke to Alessandro Fujisaka of Marubeni America at PV Expo in Tokyo in late February. Fujisaka said the company’s residential kits will include panels from Chinese tier-one supplier JA Solar, mounting systems by US manufacturer ZEP Solar and inverters by local company Omron.

floating solar panels

Solar Panels Floating on Water Could Power Japan’s Homes

floating solar panels
More solar power plants are being built on water, but is this such a good idea?

Nowadays, bodies of water aren’t necessarily something to build around—they’re something to build on. They sport not just landfills and man-made beaches but also, in a nascent global trend, massive solar power plants.

 Clean energy companies are turning to lakes, wetlands, ponds, and canals as building grounds for sunlight-slurping photovoltaic panels. So far, floating solar structures have been announced in, among other countries, the United KingdomAustraliaIndia, and Italy.
The biggest floating plant, in terms of output, will soon be placed atop the reservoir of Japan’s Yamakura Dam in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo. When completed in March 2016, it will cover 180,000 square meters, hold 50,000 photovoltaic solar panels, and power nearly 5,000 households. It will also offset nearly 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. (Since the EPA estimates a typical car releases 4.7 tons of CO2 annually, that’s about 1,700 cars’ worth of emissions.)

Can Japan Recapture Its Solar Power?

solar ark
Sanyo Electric’s so-called Solar Ark, built in 2001 during the heyday of the country’s initial solar boom, was designed to generate 630 kilowatts of power, making it one of the world’s largest solar facilities. It boasts 5,046 solar panels.

It’s 38 °C on the Atsumi Peninsula southwest of Tokyo: a deadly heat wave has been gripping much of Japan late this summer. Inside the offices of a newly built power plant operated by the plastics company Mitsui Chemicals, the AC is blasting. Outside, 215,000 solar panels are converting the blistering sunlight into 50 megawatts of electricity for the local grid. Three 118-meter-high wind turbines erected at the site add six megawatts of generation capacity to back up the solar panels during the winter.

Mitsui’s plant is just one of thousands of renewable-power installations under way as Japan confronts its third summer in a row without use of the nuclear reactors that had delivered almost 30 percent of its electricity. In Japan people refer to the earthquake and nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, as “Three-Eleven.” Radioactive contamination forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate and terrified millions more. It also sent a shock wave through Japan’s already fragile manufacturing sector, which is the country’s second-largest employer and accounts for 18 percent of its economy.


Green power floods Japan grid as premium prices bite

Kyushu Electric | KYODO
Kyushu Electric | KYODO

Japan’s utilities say they are being swamped by green power because of rules forcing them to buy up every last watt produced from renewable sources, as new generating companies seek to cash in on premium prices.

Power firms say the grid does not have enough capacity to cope with the rocketing levels of electricity that is coming from a growing number of solar power facilities, possibly risking blackouts.

Yet critics point out that these utilities are simultaneously agitating to restart mothballed nuclear reactors, insisting they need the stability and reliability that atomic power plants provide.

“It sounds inconsistent that a power company says it plans to restart a nuclear plant on the one hand, and on the other says it does not want solar power because there is not enough demand” to soak up all the supply, said Hisayo Takada, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace.

Under rules that came into effect in 2012, Japan’s 10 electricity providers — all with a monopoly in their supply area — are obliged to buy power generated from green sources at rates fixed by the government each year.

This rate represents a significant premium on the cost of generation, which the utilities can pass on to consumers. That currently works out at 2,700 yen ($25) per household, per year.

The idea was to offer income guarantees to new generating companies and encourage production from renewables which — together with hydropower — accounted for around 10 percent of Japan’s electricity in 2012, boosting that rate to around 30 percent by 2030.

But Kyushu Electric and four other utilities said in September they would suspend purchases under the so-called Feed-In Tariff (FIT) system, citing the risk of blackouts from overload.

Critics charge that utilities don’t like this green energy because it competes with their own supplies. They say the monopoly these huge firms have on distribution allows them to obfuscate.

“If a utility says it can’t transmit solar power on its grid, currently no one can verify the claim because the grid system is a closed box to outsiders,” said Greenpeace’s Takada.

“I hope the (ministry of economy, trade and industry) will review the claims with fairness and based on information disclosure that should be provided by utilities,” she told AFP.

– Predictable –

Green energy has taken on a particular significance in Japan since the tsunami-sparked disaster at Fukushima knocked public confidence in nuclear power, a technology that had previously supplied more than a quarter of the country’s electricity.

Japan’s entire stock of reactors is now offline, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s business-friendly government wants to get some of them back up and running, insisting nuclear is crucial to energy security and can help towards greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

For Hikaru Hiranuma, research fellow at the Tokyo Foundation, the quibbles from the power companies were symptomatic of the half-baked deregulation that has left them with too much control over both production and distribution.

“I’m a bit worried about the future of renewable energy in this country because a power grid system that is accessible to everyone is yet to be realised,” he said.

Primarily, he argues, the utilities should not be allowed to own the means of distribution.

“Otherwise they can set up barriers to new entrants to the power market, by, for example charging for transmission and imposing penalties for unstable electricity supply.”

The growth in green energy production — up 54 percent since 2012 to 31.6 million kilowatt hours, according to government data — was predictable enough once the FIT system was introduced, he said.

“That’s how a country like Spain has made such good use of renewable energy,” he said, adding 30 percent of its supply now came from renewables.

“The causes of the emerging problem is not the FIT but utilities’ failure to prepare for growth in solar power … which raises a question about the utilities’ suitability as business entities,” Hiranuma said.

Japan’s Fukushima Going 100% Renewable Energy


Three years after Japan’s nuclear meltdown, Fukushima Prefecture announced it will transition to 100% renewable energy by 2040.

The region, which has a population of about two million people, doesn’t want to return to nuclear power even as the national government remains committed to getting the reactors back online. A recent survey shows that 53% of Japan’s citizens want nuclear power phased out and 23% want it shut down now.

Currently, Fukushima gets 22% of its energy from renewable sources. One of Japan’s biggest solar projects could be located there, but residents also want to bring back small farming communities.

Called “Solar Sharing,” farmers are growing crops underneath solar panels. They are growing crops like canola – which absorbs radiation – in an effort to decontaminate their farmland and their abandoned livelihoods. Solar panels are designed on a pergola-type structure that lets in enough sun to grow crops below.

They are also planning 1 GW of offshore wind off Fukushima’s coast by 2020, where a $226 millionfloating offshore wind farm project is already in motion.

Nagano, the Japanese prefecture which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1998, has pledged to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The nuclear disaster has changed the way people think about energy, Tetsunari Iida, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies in Japan, told Responding to Climate Change (RTCC).  On the other hand, community power development offers a sense of “local ownership and participation.”

In Germany, 74 regions and municipalities have already reached 100% renewable energy, according to the newly established Global 100% Renewable Energy Campaign.

At the Warsaw Climate Summit last November, delegates were stunned when the Japanese national government rolled back its long-held target of cutting emissions 25% below 1990 levels by 2020. The new target is 3.8% below 2005 levels by 2020.

Japan’s Growing Pains

After implementing the world’s most generous feed-in tariff two years ago, Japan is now the world’s second-largest solar PV market, installing 7 gigawatts in 2013 (the country has 10.5 GW installed in total). Developers turned more to solar than wind or geothermal because it’s cheaper and quicker to develop.

The government target for solar is 28 GW by 2020 – and 40% renewable energy by 2030 – andcorporations from Softbank to First Solar have been rushing to fulfill it, with 22.4 GW already approved.
But developers are running into a raft of barriers, most notably limits to grid capacity, but also finding available land, waiting lists for components and a shortage of qualified technicians.

For example, Softbank’s 180-plus GW solar project – three large projects on the  island of Hokkaido – has been put on hold because the utility hasn’t decided which projects will be able to connect to the grid.

About a quarter of all solar projects are being built on Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island, because it’s one of few areas with  relatively large pieces of inexpensive land. But the grid can’t handle all those projects. About 20% are being denied access to the grid altogether and 37% have been told they will have limited access, according to survey by the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation.

To deal with that, the government is building the world’s largest battery bank in Hokkaido (the northern part of Japan) and another, much smaller, 2 MW bank in Okinawa (the southern part) to stabilize the flow of solar energy. It will invest $33 billion on grid modernization and development over the next 10 years, particularly to spur growth of wind energy.

Meanwhile, Panasonic’s work around to the situation is to focus on small rooftop solar. “Rooftops don’t require the purchase of land, and there are transmission lines already available nearby. “Rooftops are going to be more popular,” Kazuhiro Yoshida, who heads the solar division, toldBloomberg.

Kyocera is supplying solar panels for installations that spread across 80 farms in Japan.

Learn more about the Global 100% Renewable Energy Campaign:


Original Article on  SustainableBusiness

Solar is Blowin Up in Japan and India


Japan has now joined the 10 gigawatt photovoltaics gang, installing 4 gigawatts of PV last year alone. By October 31 that brought the country up to 11.3 gigawatts (of installed solar, making it one of the world’s largest solar market. Meanwhile, India is starting to catch up. Last year the country installed more than 1 gigawatt solar. Both developments show a continued diversity in the world solar market as the solar market gets more diversified and is no longer concentrated solely in Europe.

In surpassing the 10 gigawatts of installed PV mark last year, Japan became one a handful of countries that have surpassed that level, the U.S. among them. The other countries are China, Germany and Italy. The U.S, China and Japan also surpassed the important number last year.

While India’s first gigawatt of solar is a far cry from the amount of solar installed in Japan of the U.S. last year, the world’s second-largest country is just getting started in the solar world. According to ThinkProgress the installation of 1 gigawatt ofsolar power almost doubled the country’s solar capacity in a year. “India added just over 1 gigawatt of solar energy to its electrical grid last year, a major milestone that nearly doubles the country’s cumulative solar energy capacity to 2.18 gigawatts,” it said. The advocacy organization called it, “ A good sign that India will be able to meet its ambitious solar targets going forward. India hopes to install 10 GW of solar by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022.”

Japan’s rapid growth in solar is driven by the nation’s decision to stop using nuclear power following the Fukishima disaster in 2011. And the country is moving ahead rapidly. Japan’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy through its Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said the island nation installed 4 GWs of PV  in the six months between April 1 and Oct. 31, 2013.

The majority of the new growth was further facilitated by Japan’s aggressive feed-in tariff. “Photovoltaic power facilities steadily continue to be introduced, and the total combined capacity of such facilities as of October 31, 2013, reached 5,852,000 kW after the feed-in tariff scheme was introduced,” METI stated. That’s 5.8 GWs of PV through the program since it launched in July 2012.

“Of the 3.99 GW of new PV capacity, residential accounted for 870 MW, while non-residential systems made up the rest, 3,123 MW,” according to PV Magazine. “From July 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013, Japan’s total PV capacity reached 1,673 MW, with residential making up 969 MW and non-residential 704 MW.”

During the next few years as solar continues to fall in price and other forms of electric generation become more expensive in comparison, it’s likely that the largest solar markets will continue to shift.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Energy Storage Heats Up in Japan


Japan is emerging as a hot spot for energy storage projects, as utilities and technology companies look to battery-based solutions in response to the surge in solar PV installations.

Two new battery storage projects have been announced in the past week, with Toshiba to install a 20-megawatt-hour/40-megawatt lithium-ion battery project in Tohoku, and the island of Okinawa announcing a 2-megawatt battery storage project on Tuesday.

Japan is expected to be the largest market for solar PV installations in 2013, with around 9 gigawatts to be installed following the introduction of feed-in tariffs last year in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

This year, the Japanese government launched a $300 million grant program to support the installation of large-scale battery systems to help integrate renewables into the grid.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that that the Toshiba system announced on November 26 will provide frequency regulation and operating reserves for Tohoku Electric. It is due to be commissioned in February next year.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced a 2-megawatt lead battery storage system to be built on Okinawa, the country’s southernmost island, to respond to up to 57 megawatts of solar farms of 300 kilowatts or more that are expected to be in place by the end of the year.

The ministry says this is reaching capacity for the island, and new systems may not be able to be installed without storage. The 2-megawatt system may increase the renewable capacity by around 10 percent. The pilot project will be combined with another study looking into grid management.

Earlier this year, the northern island of Hokkaido also announced a 60-megawatt-hour/15-megawatt redox flow battery storage project would be built by Sumitomo because of the large amount of solar PV systems being installed.

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