KEPCO, Sharp to build solar plant
Jul 3, 2008 - Associated Press
Eco-friendly facility to be first of its kind to power
nation's homes, factories
OSAKA--Kansai Electric Power Co., the nation's second-biggest
electricity producer, and Sharp Corp., the consumer electronics
giant, recently announced plans to set up a solar power
plant in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, that will be one of the
The two firms aim to demonstrate their awareness of environmental
issues by building the plant, which will be the first in
the nation to deliver solar-generated electricity to households
The plant will comprise two separate facilities. One is
to be operated solely by KEPCO and will supply electricity
to the public power grid, while the other will be jointly
managed and generate electricity for use at factories owned
by the two firms.
The generating capacity of the plant is expected to be
about 28 megawatts, which, despite representing only 0.02
percent of the total output of all KEPCO plants, is enough
electricity for about 8,000 households, and would make the
plant one of the most productive solar facilities in the
Construction of the first facility is to begin in fiscal
2009, on a site of about 20 hectares leased from the Osaka
The firms announced the plan in the lead-up to the Group
of Eight nations summit in Toyakocho, Hokkaido, which begins
Monday and has environmental issues as a major topic on
Establishing the plant will potentially benefit both firms'
business operations, but the firms say their true aim in
making the 5 billion yen investment is to help reduce carbon
dioxide emissions in Japan.
As a signatory to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, Japan is required
to cut emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases by 6
percent from 1990 levels before 2012, and the new projects
by Sharp and KEPCO aim to help meet the targets.
KEPCO hopes to reduce its own average annual CO2 emissions
by about 16 percent over the same period.
Despite making use of CO2 emission trading--which allows
the purchase of CO2 emission credits from firms in developing
nations that do not use their full quota--the firm has so
far been unable to reach its target, leading to its exploration
of alternative energy.
Firms trying to turn solar power generation into a profitable
business face considerable hurdles.
The technical problem of how to guarantee a stable supply
of solar power, which could make it the primary means of
generating electricity, is yet to be solved, KEPCO Executive
Vice President Sakae Kanno said.
The amount of electricity generated by solar power depends
greatly on weather conditions. Whether KEPCO can solve these
problems is likely to be a harbinger for the future of solar
power in Japa
Meanwhile, Sharp will supply solar power to a number of
buildings in an industrial park in Sakai, including its
own liquid crystal television factory, by installing a system
on the factory's roof that employs a new type of solar battery
known as thin-film photovoltaics (PV).
The thin-film PV system requires only 1 percent of the
silicon needed for other solar cell systems, and due to
the scarcity and rising cost of silicon, the system is expected
to be widely adopted internationally.
Sharp has been striving to increase its overseas production
of the thin-film PV, due to limited domestic demand for
solar power (partly due to the central government's decision
to discontinue subsidies for solar-powered households at
the end of fiscal 2005), as well as wide interest in other
In some nations in Europe and elsewhere, solar-generated
electricity costs less than that created by less environmentally
friendly means, prompting rapid growth of the solar power
In mid-May, Sharp reached a basic agreement to launch a
solar power project with Enel SpA, the largest power company
in Italy. The project is expected to see Sharp set up several
solar power plants using thin-film PV in Italy by the end
of 2011, with a combined generating capacity of about 160
megawatts, or enough to power about 40,000 households in
Sharp also will examine the possibility of jointly establishing
with Enel SpA a plant to manufacture solar battery panels
for thin-film PV. It intends to increase its annual production
capacity for the panels from 15 megawatts as of November
2007 to 6,000 megawatts in the future.
Sharp has nurtured the production of thin-film PV as one
of its primary business projects. "We will collect data
as well as operational know-how on the generating efficiency
of thin-film photovoltaics," said Toshishige Hamano, vice
president of Sharp Corp.
As a participant in the bidding for KEPCO's solar power
generation facility with thin-film PV, Sharp hopes to obtain
data for the facility so that it can better provide the
products to its customers.