Japan: 200 MW plant planned

Post-Fukushima Japan has been touted as being the next photovoltaic market to watch for some months. The signs are beginning to appear that some of the high expectations may be coming to fruition.

Only months out from the new renewable-energy feed in tariff (FIT) system comes into effect on July 1, it has been reported that Softbank subsidiary SB Energy plans to build a 200 MW plant, over 480 hectares, near an industrial district in the city of Tomakomai, on the south of Hokkaido.

SB Energy has announced that it will establish solar power plants in other parts of Japan, but the Hokkaido plant will dwarf the others. The Japan Times reports that a plant near Kyoto is set to have a capacity of 4.2 MW, one in Gunma 2.4 MW and another in Tokushima 5.6 MW.

The final rates for the FIT has yet to be established but initial figures indicate that they may be at levels which could make installations quite profitable. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reported last week that returns for photovoltaic investments could be as high as 44 to 51 percent.

Certainly attempts by the so-called "nuclear village" – supporters of the nuclear industry in Japanese business and politics – were not successful in stacking the committee establishing the FIT rates with renewable energy skeptics. BNEF has nonetheless warned that FITs, which are too high would lead to a harmful boom-and-bust cycle.

Softbank and Hokkaido Electric are expected to announce a construction schedule and the final capacity of the facility when FIT rates are finalized.