Kyocera plans 430 MW Japan PV plant as country's solar shipments soar

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Japanese tech giant Kyocera has announced plans to develop a 430 MW solar PV project on the southern Japanese island of Ukujima in collaboration with four key partners.

Photovolt Development Partners GmbH, Kyudenko Corp., Orix Corp. and Mizuho Bank Ltd. have each reached a basic feasibility agreement for the project which, if approved, would be the largest solar PV project in the world to be built on agricultural land.

The news comes on the same day that the Japan Photovoltaic Energy Association (JPEA) announced that Japan more than doubled its solar shipments over the last fiscal year – a show of strength that justifies the hype currently surrounding the Japanese PV market.

Mega solar project

Initial planning of the proposed 430 MW solar PV project on Ukujima was begun by Photovolt Development Partners in April 2013, in part with one eye on the economic revitalization of the island, which is relatively remote and impoverished. Initial investment for the plant is estimated at 150 billion yen (US$1.47 billion), with construction penciled in to commence in the first quarter of 2016.

Details released by Kyocera reveal a combined land area of 6.3 million square meters over multiple locations. If realized, the plant would cover close to 25% of the entire land area of Ukujima.

Kyocera’s involvement extends to the supply of 1.72 million of its high output multicrystalline silicon solar modules, generating some 500,000 MWh of solar power per year, enough to power 138,800 Japanese households and mitigate the effects of 252,200 tons of carbon dioxide every year. Kyocera will also be responsible for the construction, maintenance and management of the solar power systems.

Local utility Kyushu Electric Power Inc. has agreed a preliminary power purchase agreement (PPA) with the plant, and will construct a 60km undersea cable between Ukujima and Kyushu in order to feed the power to the grid.

Discussions have taken place at a high level with TeraSol G.K., who would lease the agricultural land and construct the solar modules on stilts, thus allowing the land below to be used concurrently for agricultural purposes. Also factored into the build will the ability of the land to continue to support livestock farmers – either through grazing or the growing of oat grass and other pasture grasses.

Soaring solar shipments

Across Japan, the country’s shipments of solar modules reached 8.54 GW in the fiscal year until March 31, 2014 – up from 3.8 GW over the course of the last fiscal year, according to JPEA. Domestically, shipment growth was also impressive, reaching 2.77 GW this fiscal year from just 1.73 GW a year ago.

The data, compiled from 44 companies, confirmed that Japan is almost certain to be the second-largest solar PV market in the world this year after China, and is on course to install between 9.3 GW and 11.7 GW, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

With a preference for locally made products (which are deemed to be of a higher quality than non-domestic equipment), the domestic market still dominates all shipments with a 71% share. However, its grip is loosening a little, falling from 77% last year, while the percentage of shipments produced by Japanese companies also fell, from 62% last year to 44% at the end of this latest fiscal year.