Two solar projects to add 52 MW to Japan grid

The utility-scale solar industry in Japan has received a double boost this week following the news that more than 50 MW of PV capacity is to be deployed across two large-scale solar installations.

The biggest – a 37 MW array – will be constructed in Okayama by Itochu Corp., which has secured a loan agreement for the plant with a group of financers represented by Mizuho Bank.

Construction of the plant – in which Itochu holds a 50% stake and Ene One Solar Co. and Fuyo General Lease Co. each hold 25% – has already begun, with completion and connection to the grid penciled in for early 2016. The plant’s average annual power output is calculated at 43 million kWh, which is enough to meet the energy needs of 7,600 local households annually.

Itochu has agreed a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Chugoku Electric Power Co. for a period of 20 years.

Elsewhere in Japan, Takara Leben has unveiled plans for a 15 MW solar PV plant on a former golf course. The installation, in Nakagawa, Tochigi Prefecture, will be constructed by Hitachi Zosen using CIS thin-film modules supplied by Solar Frontier.

The project also marks the first time that string inverters will be used on a MW-scale PV installation in Japan, rather than the traditional central inverter model. This approach is expected to lower construction and operation costs for the plant, while also proving softer on the environment during the shorter development phase.

Solar Frontier’s CIS modules have been chosen to deliver a higher tolerance to partial shading and heat impact. Combined with the power point tracking of the string inverters, Takara Leben hopes to deliver a higher yield than traditional central inverter-backed installations of this size.

The design flexibility afforded by using string inverters has also proven pivotal. The bulk of the site sits on what was once the fairway of the golf course – a location that brought its own installation challenges that have been overcome by the use of 20 kW inverters.