Kyocera sees floating PV as one solution to Japan land shortages

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A Kyocera joint venture (JV) is preparing to build a 2.9MW PV power station in Japan that floats on water, claimed to be the largest such plant in the world to date.

The company announced the latest project, which will have a generation capacity of 2.9MW across two photovoltaic arrays, on its Japanese website. Located in Hyogo Prefecture, west Japan, the plant will consist of a 1.7MW array and a 1.2MW array. 

The plant will be built through Kyocera’s JV with Century Tokyo Leasing, a company which specialises in leasing industrial equipment and also finances real estate and offers fund procurement services. The two companies set up the JV in the summer of 2012, shortly after the introduction of Japan’s feed-in tariff (FiT). The JV has already developed 92.8MW of PV across 28 locations in Japan, of which 21.6MW is now online at 11 plants, according to Kyocera. According to the company, the JV is aiming to develop 60MW of floating PV during this financial year, which in Japan will finish at the end of April 2015.

In the latter period since the launch of the feed-in tariff (FiT) in July 2012, Japan’s PV industry has hit a number of obstacles in the deployment of generation capacity through ground mounted arrays. Developers were given until the end of August to get projects up to scratch in terms of paperwork pertaining to equipment and land rights, in an ongoing saga which will be well known to regular readers of PV Tech. The country’s Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) will be expected to make a decision on whether to take action soon over unbuilt projects.

In the meantime, developers and prospective PV plant owners are still trying to build solar farms and rooftops. Kyocera said in its statement announcing the floating plant that the company had identified putting floating plants on large bodies of water as an opportunity to pursue, in addition to continuing to develop ground mount and rooftop solar.

The Kyocera/Century Tokyo Leasing JV will be supplied with ‘Hydrelio’, a system for mounting PV modules on water by the Japanese office of French company Ciel et Terre. Ciel et Terre claims it sees putting PV arrays onto bodies of water is an “acceptable ecological alternative” to ground mount and rooftop plants in areas where land may not be available, also calling it a “serious alternative”. The ‘Hydrelio’ high density polyethylene mounting structure will be fitted with over 11,000 Kyocera 255W modules. The plant is expected to have an annual output of around 3.3million kWh and power will be sold to utility Kansai Electric Power.

Ciel et Terre said floating PV can also work more efficiently than ground mount to convert more sunlight into electricity due to the cooling effect of the water on the solar panels. It is also claimed the surface coverage of the mounting structure prevents abnormal algae buildup. Ciel et Terre does also build mounting solutions for ground mount and rooftop projects however.

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