Softbank and Toshiba to add 80MW of PV in Japan across two projects

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Almost 100MW worth of plans to install new PV generation capacity have been unveiled this week, with two new projects totalling 80MW added to the large-scale project on a former golf course which was reported yesterday by PV Tech.

Telecoms provider Softbank’s energy generation business will develop a 43MW ground-mount plant, while one of Japan’s largest general trading companies, Itochu, revealed plans yesterday for a 37MW PV power station. These are in addition to the 15MW golf course project in Tochigi Prefecture revealed yesterday, which will be supplied with PV modules by Solar Frontier.

Softbank subsidiary SB Energy will execute its 43MW project in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, south-west of Tokyo, in a 50%-50% partnership with another of Japan’s vast general trading companies, Mitsu & Co. Mitsui & Co and Softbank have worked together on several renewable energy projects in the past.

The 53.1 hectare project is scheduled to be completed and connected by the start of the 2016 financial year. It is expected to have an annual output of 59,324,000kWh which SB Energy claims is enough to power just under 15,000 households, based on an average demand per household of 3,600kWh per year.

Meanwhile, Toshiba will build the 37MW project as engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) partner for Itochu, in Okayama City, Okayama Prefecture, which is yet further south-west on the main Japanese island, Honshu. Construction is expected to begin this month and be completed by December 2016.

Electricity from the plant will be sold to local utility Chugoku Electric Power over 20 years. Itochu will hold a 50% stake in the project, with two other partners Ene One Solar Co and Fuyo General Lease holding 25% each. Itochu claims that with this project, its interest in renewable energy projects will close in on 480MW across five countries.

Discussions to resolve the longstanding issue of grid connection for solar are still ongoing, after several of Japan’s regional utility companies, which are also responsible for grid connection, began refusing to approve new applications for medium and large-scale PV projects in September. A group which was convened by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) met twice in October, with one more meeting expected to take place before the end of the year.

Under pressure from politicians and businesses, and faced with rising consumer energy bills, that ‘working group’ is also making recommendations ahead of a wide-ranging review of the feed-in tariff (FiT) programme that has been behind so much of Japan’s rapid solar expansion since July 2012 when it began.

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