Mitsui to build huge solar power plants in disaster areas
Sept. 30, 2011 - yomiuri.co.jp
Trading company giant Mitsui & Co. plans to build huge solar power plants in the Tohoku region to help the region recover from the March 11 disaster by easing its power shortages, it was learned Wednesday.
Mitsui plans to build several large solar plants with a combined generation capacity of about 100,000 kilowatts, enough to supply electricity to about 30,000 households, company sources said.
It will be the first large-scale solar power project in the quake-hit region.
Mitsui intends to ease power shortages and provide work to people who lost their jobs due to the earthquake and tsunami.
The firm has already begun negotiations with municipal governments in potential locations for these plants as well as with Tohoku Electric Power Co., which will purchase the electricity from Mitsui. Mitsui intends to start building the plants as early as this fiscal year. Mitsui also plans to build wind power stations in the same locations if the areas are windy all year.
According to Mitsui, it will build plants in several locations in Tohoku.
Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. began operating a huge solar power plant in Niigata Prefecture last year. Other large-scale solar power projects are under way elsewhere in the country.
Each of these plants, either already in operation or being planned, has a generation capacity between 1,000 and 10,000 kilowatts, in principle.
Solar power generation requires a massive amount of space, needing between 10,000 and 20,000 square meters packed with panels to produce 1,000 kilowatts. Buying and installing the panels costs hundreds of millions of yen.
It is expected that power generated by Mitsui will provide energy for lighting and air conditioning, especially in the summer months. The project is also expected to help the region's factories operate smoothly by alleviating power shortages.
The project is also expected to provide jobs in construction and other industries.
A bill concerning special measures on renewable energy sources has already been submitted to the Diet to require power companies to buy all electricity generated by solar and wind power plants set up by companies for fixed prices, beginning in fiscal 2012.
Regardless of the bill's passage, Mitsui plans to provide power to the quake-hit region with the solar power plants.
In the wake of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the quake, companies outside the power industry, such as SoftBank Corp., have entered the solar power business.
Currently, power companies buy surplus electricity generated by solar power. Power for household use sells for 42 yen per kilowatt-hour. Power for industrial use sells for 40 yen if power generating capacity is less than 500 kilowatts, while 500 kilowatts or more via large-scale generation sells only for 8 yen to 12 yen depending on negotiations between power companies and power generators. If the bill on renewable energy is passed, power companies are likely to be required to buy all electricity for about 42 yen per kilowatt-hour.
(Jul. 7, 2011)