Expressway Runs Through Japan's Largest 'Solar Plant in Mountains'
Facilities with total output of 200MW constructed in town using Renewable Energy Act
Over 200MW output in 'areas for establishing renewable energy facilities'
The town of Karumaimachi located on the prefectural border in northern Iwate Prefecture, Japan, about 20km south of the Hachinohe Exit on the Hachinohe Expressway in Aomori Prefecture, is a key transport hub that has connected the coast and inland areas since old times and prospered as a post station. The town has a number of gently sloping hills, but in its flat areas is well known across Japan for its rice and coarse cereal production such as millet, Japanese millet, proso millet and wild sesame.
In addition, Karumaimachi is about to become a "town of renewable energy," with biomass and solar power plants having been constructed one after another during the last few years.
The town formulated its "plan to energize farming and mountain villages by promoting renewable energy" at an expert meeting it organized using the Act on Promoting Generation of Electricity from Renewable Energy Sources Harmonized with Sound Development of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (hereinafter, Renewable Energy Act) and indicated "areas for establishing renewable energy facilities" in the plan. The renewable energy-based power supplies to be constructed in these areas are one poultry manure-based biomass power plant with an output of 6.25MW and mega- (large-scale) solar power plants with a total output of over 200MW combining five sites (Fig. 1).
The scheme under the Renewable Energy Act has the benefit whereby the local community can continuously receive a part of the sold power generated at a renewable energy project even by a private company. "Some people say mega-solar power plants would no longer generate employment once they are constructed; however, if they are constructed on a large-scale, the local community will be energized even after completion as their operation and maintenance work will be undertaken by local engineers," said Kenichi Yamamoto, mayor of Karumaimachi.
The town has proactively supported renewable energy development by private companies while limiting the area for renewable energy development to less than 10% of the entire forest area in the town in its "plan to energize farming and mountain villages."