Visit to Plant

175MW Solar Plant Under Construction Along River in Hokkaido

With storage battery for easing short-term output fluctuations

2019/12/14 13:23
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
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Focus shifted from coal to mega-solar plant

The town of Abiracho in southwest Hokkaido is well-known for breeding thoroughbred racehorses such as the legendary Deep Impact. It is also famous for dairy farming, with Japan's first full-fledged cheese factory founded there. In the mid-Meiji period, the town, a transit point for trains transporting coal from Yubari coal mines to the port and where a coke manufacturing factory was operating, played an important role in the coal industry (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Abiracho known for breeding thoroughbred racehorses (source: Nikkei BP)

Abiracho, which once supported Japan's energy needs with "coal," is about to become a most-advanced renewable energy area. Japan's largest-class mega- (large-scale) solar power plant and a large-scale storage battery system to limit fluctuations in its output are being constructed in the town.

In addition to "SoftBank Tomatoh Abira Solar Park," which began operation in December 2015 with a solar panel capacity of 111MW and a grid capacity of 79MW, "SoftBank Tomato Abira Solar Park 2" with a solar panel capacity of 64.6MW and a grid capacity of 48MW is being constructed in the adjoining site across a river, forming Japan's largest-class solar integration area with a combined solar panel capacity of about 175.6MW when it is completed next spring (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Rendering of SoftBank Tomato Abira Solar Park 2. Tomato Abira Solar Park in operation and Solar Park 2 being constructed on left and right of Abira River in center, respectively. (source: SB Energy)

Power reception began October 1

On October 1, 2019, the "power reception" work was completed, and a grid substation of the Tomato Abira Solar Park 2 was connected with the facility of Hokkaido Electric Power Co Inc (HEPCO). A power reception ceremony took place involving Toshiba Corp and Toshiba Mitsubishi-Electric Industrial Systems Corp (TMEIC), which are providing engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services, as well as SB Energy Corp and those related to the plant's design and construction.

An engineer efficiently set up power reception upon the order "Commence power reception!" and soon an operating noise buzzed across the surrounding area. After checking all the meters and instruments, a Toshiba engineer said, "Operation confirmed. All power reception has been completed" (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: Power reception ceremony on October 1 (source: Nikkei BP)

Following the commencement of power reception, the Tomatoh Abira Solar Park 2 will start commercial operation after test operations for about six months.

What characterizes the Solar Park 2 is the storage battery system with a large capacity of about 17.5MWh and an output of about 34MW installed next to the grid substation where the power reception ceremony took place. The battery system was adopted with the aim of smoothing short-term fluctuations in mega-solar output (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: TMEIC storage battery system with capacity of about 17.5MWh and output of about 34MW (source: Nikkei BP)