Japan: ORIX to develop 200 MW as market blossoms

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With Japan’s generous revamped FITs for photovoltaics coming into effect in July of this year, the Japanese photovoltaic market is showing signs of picking up pace. ORIX is the latest player to announce major plans, in the form of a plan to develop 100 MW of utility scale – known as "mega-solar" – power plants and another 100 MW in the form of commercial rooftop installations, as part of a rented roof space program.

Details for 81.6 MW of "mega-solar" projects have emerged today, with the installations being spread across 17 sites. Developing a large number of smaller installations is incentivized under the Japanese FITs, as installations under 2 MW are easier to connect to the electricity grid.

The ORIX "mega-solar" plans will be developed on land leased from "companies, local governments and other landowners," the company said in a statement issued today.

ORIX has been involved in the photovoltaic industry since 2010, providing a range of services including financing, installation and assistance with equipment certification.

Japanese module producer Solar Frontier has been providing a similar “all in one” system for companies wishing to enter the solar industry, in light on the favorable FITs. The company not only manufactures panels but has a long experience in the energy business in Japan, through parent company Showa Shell Sekiyu.

The Japanese FITs currently pay 42 yen (US$0.52)/kWh for 20 years, which has enticed companies from diverse industries such as telecommunications, through to construction and real estate to develop photovoltaic installation plans. Electronic giant Softbank has been particularly active in the space, agitating for the break up regional Japanese utilities monopoly on power supply.

NPD Solarbuzz recently reported that 1.5 GW of projects have applied and qualified to develop projects under the FIT, since it was launched. It forecasts 1.8 GW of installations to be installed in Japan in 2012.

Brooks Herring, from Solar Frontier, told pv magazine that as the Japanese financial year ends in March 2013, demand for modules in Q4 2012 and Q1 2013 should be particularly high. Henning reports that the thin film manufacturer is focusing its global activities primarily in Japan and the MENA region, where the company has long had technical offices and is developing a number of projects.