Power Producer Donates Park to Town, Wins Trust of Local Community

2019/09/16 15:01
Shinichi Kato, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo

On August 23, 2019, the presentation ceremony of "Daisen Canadian Garden," a park which is expected to be a place for local people to relax, took place in Daisencho, Tottori Prefecture, Japan.

Daisencho is located in the district of "Mount Daisen (1,729m above sea level)," the highest mountain in the Chugoku region (Fig. 1). "Daisenji Temple" on the mountain is an old temple founded in 718, which, as well as Horyuji Temple in Nara (founded in 607), can be dated back to ancient times and are mentioned in a local history book called "Izumonokuni Fudoki."

Fig. 1: Chugoku region's famous Mt. Daisen and Daisenji Temple halfway up the mountain (source: Nikkei BP)

Daisen Canadian Garden is situated along Prefectural Road 305 at the foot of Mt. Daisen on the north side of the meandering Amida River across a bridge (Fig. 2). It is a simple park with a large cubic concrete structure in the center and a monument at the end.

Fig. 2: Daisen Canadian Garden (source: Nikkei BP)

A group company of leading solar panel manufacturer Canadian Solar Inc established and presented this park. Part of the company's name was incorporated into the name of the park. The "CS Tottori Daisen Solar Power Plant," a mega- (large-scale) solar power plant with a total output of about 27.3MW, is located near this park. Canadian Solar Projects KK (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo), which develops and operates solar power plants in the Canadian Solar Group, developed this plant through a special purpose company (SPC).

Toshiba Corp provided engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services and adopted its own solar panels (320W/unit) and a 750kW-output PV inverter of Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems Corp (TMEIC).

The site of Daisen Canadian Garden along the prefectural road is adjacent to a steel tower for the mega-solar plant's independent cable running between the plant and the grid point about 7km away.

The park was granted to the local town of Daisencho. The donators were a Canadian Solar Group company and Daisen Maehata KK, which owned the site. Daisen Maehata runs a real estate business in Daisencho (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Presentation ceremony (source: Nikkei BP)

Roughly 40 people participated in the ceremony, including Jeff Roy (president of Canadian Solar Projects) and Makoto Matsubara (president of Daisen Maehata) on the presenter side and Hironori Takeguchi (town mayor of Daisencho) on the receiver side, as well as Shinji Hirai (governor of Tottori Prefecture), Ryosei Akazawa (a Lower House member elected from Tottori Prefecture), people from financial and construction industries and local landowners.

According to Jeff Roy, Canadian Solar Group constructed and presented the garden to the town as a representation of goodwill and a harmonious coexistence with the local community where the mega-solar plant is located. The mega-solar development realized the effective use of the vast site, which had been a long-standing problem for the local community.

For the Canadian Solar Project, it seems such gratitude was based on wish to contribute in a different form from the power generation business to the local community, which overcame various difficulties it faced and offered support during the development.

The CS Tottori Daisen Solar Power Plant consists of two mega-solar plants located about 1km from each other. A grid point is shared between the two plants to transmit power to Chugoku Electric Power Co Inc's extra-high-voltage power transmission cable (Fig. 4, Farmland Transformed to 27MW Solar Plant, Consideration Given to Goshawks)

Fig. 4: CS Tottori Daisen Solar Power Plant (source; top CSIF, others Nikkei BP)

According to Town Mayor Takeguchi, the site along the Amida River near the garden and an idle field about 1km away were both facing the challenge of effective utilization. Amid severe financial circumstances, the town had started considering how to newly construct or re-establish a park to be used as a place to relax by the local community. This garden was established and presented ahead of the town's initiative.

The mega-solar site in the Shimizuhara Area about 1km from this site leveraged about 34ha of idle fields. Despites the efforts to utilize the site for agriculture, it was difficult to raise crops there. As this was a site that the local area wished to be used effectively, the local community proactively excluded it from the plan to establish agricultural promotion areas and filed an application to convert the land category from farmland when developing the mega-solar plant.

According to Matsubara, president of Daisen Maehata, the success of the mega-solar plant development might be attributable to the local community's intentions as well as its empathy to the development and philosophy of Canadian Solar Projects led by President Jeff Roy.

Jeff Roy often said, "Mt. Daisen brings back memories because it resembles the Canadian Rockies in my hometown," expressing his sense of familiarity to the local area. When signing a land-related contract with the power producer, Canadian Solar Projects stipulated in the contract that it would accumulate all the funds to be required to remove the facilities after the power generation project is completed. Such a corporate attitude appears to have been accepted favorably.

Both presidents, Roy and Matsubara, said the cubic concrete structure like a sunshade and a monument at Daisen Canadian Garden was modeled after an "up-side-down Mt. Daisen."

Clean Energies XXI (Daisencho, Tottori Prefecture), an SPC of Canadian Solar Projects, developed this mega-solar plant. This company was initially the power producer.

Canadian Solar Projects is one of the companies most actively developing solar power plants in Japan. Canadian Solar Infrastructure Fund Inc (CSIF, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo), which basically invests in the projects developed by Canadian Solar Projects, is listed on the infrastructure fund market of the Tokyo Stock Exchange Inc.

In September 2018, it was announced that the ownership of the mega-solar plant in Tottori Daisen had been transferred to CSIF after the operation began (See related article). As a result, Canadian Solar Asset Management KK, which manages CSIF's projects, became responsible for asset management, while Canadian Solar O&M Japan KK started providing operation and maintenance (O&M) services at both sites.

According to CSIF, the capacity factor of the mega-solar plant in Tottori Daisen was 11.18% in the first year after acquisition. The acquisition cost was 10.447 billion yen (approx US$96.9 million) while the investment ratio was 22.00%.

CSIF releases the power generation amount to the public every month (Fig. 5). According to the releases, power generation at the mega-solar plant in Tottori Daisen appears to be affected by the amount of snow cover in winter as expected.

Fig. 5: Monthly power generation in September 2018 forward, estimates in orange, results in red (source: CSIF)

A series of heavy snow falls occurred on the Sea of Japan side in the winter of 2017/2018 immediately after the operation began. No facilities were damaged, and the power plant safely continued to generate power. However, the snow that fell on the ground accumulated up to the lowest part of the solar panels and apparently affected power generation.

In the following year, CSIF revealed the amount of power generation at the mega-solar site in Daisencho fell below the monthly estimate in December 2018 due to snow cover and the short hours of sunlight during the month. The actual power generation was no more than 781,800kWh, 65.42% compared with the estimated 1,194,987kWh.

However, in May 2019, the amount of power generation soared to 4,168,100kW, a large upswing by 131.72% compared with the estimated 3,164,285kW. It appears the amount of power generation tends to outperform estimates on average throughout a year.

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