Utility-scale backlog contributed to Japan’s 7GW PV year

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Japan installed 7,185,000kW of PV by the end of the country’s 2013 financial year, which ended on 31 March, according to the latest figures from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

METI regularly issues figures for renewable energy generation capacity which give a detailed breakdown of installations by region and type. According to the statistics, 1,307,000kW of residential PV was added last fiscal year, along with around 5,735,000kW of non-residential. This shows a marked increase in both segments – during the period July 2012 to the end of March 2013, just under 1GW (969,000kW) of residential PV was added, along with around 704,000kW of non-residential.

In a recent interview with analyst Dr Hiroshi Matsukawa of Tokyo-based RTS PV, Matsukawa said that the backlog of projects that had been approved in the first year of the FiT but had yet to be built, was providing momentum for construction to continue on a large scale in the near future in Japan. This is thought to account in part for the disparity between the huge increase in non-residential projects, which include commercial as well as utility-scale and the modest increase in residential capacity.

However, aside from concerns such as the grid's stability and capacity, which have inhibited the technical ability of projects on the northern island of Hokkaido to be connected, Matsukawa said preparing for life after the FiT, which is due to expire in 2020 after a continuing period of degression, would be the most pressing concern for the Japanese PV industry in the near term.

The increase in PV is also vastly outpacing other forms of renewable energy – compared to the 7.185GW of PV capacity, including residential, commercial and utility scale added last year, only 47,000kW of wind power was added, around 4,000kW of small and medium hydropower and 92,000kW of biomass.

Hiroshi Matsukawa of RTS PV is among the Japanese solar industry figures interviewed for a feature article in Volume 14 of Solar Business Focus, which discussed the nation's renewable energy ambitions in detail.

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