Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mega Solar Announcements

With the feed-in-tariff (FIT) regulations likely to be finalized in coming weeks and the FIT to come into effect on July 1, 2012, we are starting to see more announcements of mega solar (i.e. utility scale 1MW+) projects.  

This week, NTT announced that its property owning/managing subsidiary, NTT Facilities, plans over 60MW of solar PV projects by early 2015, using land it owns at over 20 sites around Japan.  NTT Facilities has been moving in this direction for some time.  It is doing systems integration and operation & maintenance business, and since at least 2006 has been involved with a NEDO-affiliated test/research mega solar facility in Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture, that continues to grow.

One of the largest projects announced earlier this year is the 70MW Kyocera, IHI, Mizuho project in Kagoshima, southern Kyushu.  Kyocera is one of the larger Japanese manufacturers of modules.  It has a long history in the business and was the #1 manufacturer in the world back in 1998, 1999.  And it claims a leading position in the commercial/industrial market in Japan.  Assuming they are following through on  previously announced investments, they would have module capacity of 1GW per year by March of 2013.  So they will have lots of product they need to push out the door -- with not too much to distinguish it from the products of other manufacturers -- and could probably use many more similar projects.

SOFTBANK, through its SB Energy subsidiary, is teaming with prefectural and local governments around Japan, and is planning a number of large projects.  The largest by far is a proposed 200MW plant in Hokkaido.  (Apparently SB wants to build a 340MW plant, but Hokkaido Electric can only accept 200MW given its current transmission network).  SB Energy's other announced projects are each less than 10MWs.  SB Energy also has established a testing center in Hokkaido that provides real time data to the public on performance of various manufacturers' proposed modules/systems.  

Likewise, about a week ago major real estate developer and owner Mori Trust announced plans for a mega solar project in Shirakawa, Fukushima Prefecture, on the site of its La Foret Shirakawa resort development,  that suspended operations following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.  The project will initially have 2MW peak capacity, but potentially add an additional 8MW later.  I rode my bicycle within a mile of this site during Golden Week, and remember it as particularly beautiful countryside.   But it is difficult to get customers to buy resort condominiums when you need to spend too much time talking about cesium 134 and 137 contamination levels.  This area in south central Fukushima, though far outside the evacuation zones, got a a pretty significant dusting of contamination, as did northern Tochigi and Gunma prefectures.  Not good for second home values.

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