The first two projects in Etrion and Hitachi Hi-Tech’s 300MW Japanese utility-scale pipeline have begun construction, with a combined generation capacity of 34MW.
The Swiss independent power producer and the Hitachi subsidiary reached financial close last month on an agreement to jointly develop 100MW of PV projects in Japan by 2015 and 300MW by 2017. The plants are expected to be shovel-ready or under construction within those respective time frames.
One project will be built in Iwate Prefecture, near the north-western tip of the main Japanese island of Honshu, with a capacity of 24.7MW, while the other is a 9.3MW project on the western coast, about 100 miles from Tokyo.
When the deal was announced, Etrion chief executive Marcus A. Northland spoke of the importance of having Japanese partners onboard in the company’s plans. According to industry sources, it is far more difficult for foreign companies to make inroads into Japan without local partners, especially with regard to financing.
On announcing the start of construction today, he said Etrion had demonstrated its “unique execution capability in the Japanese solar market”, including greenfield development, project finance and construction.
After the introduction of the feed-in tariff (FiT) in 2012, Japan’s PV industry has grown vastly, with around 14GW installed to date. However, grid connection problems and rising consumer electricity prices have caused a degree of uncertainty going forward. Some regional utility companies, which are also responsible for the network of grids, have suspended approval for renewable energy projects. The suspension drew criticism from some quarters, while the government has announced that it will convene a working group to deal with the grid connection issue and will make a wide-ranging review of the FiT scheme at the end of the year.