Visit to Plant

'Solar Plant on Slope' Starts Operation in Hilly Town

Net put up along maintenance road for safety

2019/09/09 20:52
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
Print Page

8.4MW solar plant on slope in hilly town

Gonohemachi in southern Aomori Prefecture, Japan, is about a 30-minute drive from JR Hachinohe Station. It is a farming village with a population of about 17,000 people where farming is thriving in the form of rice, Chinese yams, apples and other fruits and vegetables as well as livestock. The town once prospered as a post station on the Oshu-kaido Road and still has a rich food culture with two sake breweries.

Given there were few flat areas and many mountain forests around it, people developed rice and vegetable fields in low areas primarily around the Gonohe River and houses on hills. Reflecting this location, the town has a lot of hills and is occasionally called "the hilly town of Gonohe."

The "K-SMFL Gonohe Mega Solar Park," a mega- (large-scale) solar power plant with an output of 8.4MW, is located on a gentle west-facing slope almost in the heart of Gonohemachi and symbolizes the "hilly town" (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Whole power plant built on west-facing slope (source: Nikkei BP)

Because the plant is surrounded by abundant trees although it is located on a hill approximately 2km from the Gonohe River, the almost 30,000 solar panels can hardly be seen from a major nearby road (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Solar panels peek between forests on a hill (source: Nikkei BP)

The plant's name, "K-SMFL," is a combination of K for Kyocera Corp and SMFL for Sumitomo Mitsui Finance and Leasing Co Ltd. The solar plant is a joint development by Kyocera Solar Corp of the Kyocera Group and SMFL.

In tandem with Kyocera

Ahead of the completion ceremony on May 24, the K-SMFL Gonohe Mega Solar Park began operation in April 2019. Kyocera and SMFL have also jointly developed mega-solar plants other than this one, but the form of management varies by project. The Gonohe site is owned by SMFL and run by the Kyocera Group.

The plant arrayed a total of about 31,200 solar panels across the site, renting about 16 hectares of mountain forests from an individual owner and developing the area almost in accordance with the terrain. Despite the trees growing there, the plant did not need permission for developing forestland because the land category was wilderness, which is not restricted by the Forest Act of Japan (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Panoramic view of K-SMFL Gonohe Mega Solar Park (source: SMFL)

The solar panel capacity is about 8.4MW in total while the grid capacity is 7.0MW. Annual power generation is expected to total 9,625,604kWh, which is equivalent to the consumption of roughly 2,500 general households. All generated power is sold at 36 yen/kWh based on the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme to Tohoku Electric Power Co Inc.

The plant adopted Kyocera solar panels and PV inverters manufactured by Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems Corp (TMEIC). TESS Engineering Co Ltd (Osaka City) provided engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services. After completion, Kyocera Solar operates and maintains the solar plant, monitoring the operation at the Kyocera Group's remote monitoring center (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Kyocera solar panels, TMEIC PV inverters adopted (source: Nikkei BP)