'Solar Sharing' Employed to Revitalize Agriculture in Fukushima (1)

In aim of handing down farmland to next generation

2020/03/01 21:43
Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP Intelligence Group, CleanTech Labo
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'Want to hand down farmland to the next generation'

The majority of Minamisoma City in Fukushima Prefecture is within 30km of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. People living in the areas within 20km of the power plant were evacuated and limitations were set on farming. An increasing number of people gave up farming due to reputational damage and a lack of farmers continues even after lifting of the evacuation order.

"It will not be easy to revitalize agriculture if this situation continues. We searched for solutions for maintaining the farmland for the next generation," said Sohei Takahashi, director of general incorporated association Eco-Energy Minamisoma Research Institute, when talking about the motivation behind the start of solar sharing in the city (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Solar sharing plant operated by Eco-Energy Minamisoma Research Institute (source: Nikkei BP)

Minamisoma City drew up the "Minamisoma City Renewable Energy Promotion Vision" in October 2012 and established a target to cover the entire demand for power in the city with renewable energy by 2030; the target is called "RE100" (renewable energy 100%).

Responding to the energy policy of the city, Eco-Energy Minamisoma Research Institute was established in March 2013, aiming to actualize development of the city by introducing renewable energy from the viewpoint of the citizens.

Mega solar power plants are already in operation on multiple sites in the Kashima and Haramachi districts of the city. Mega solar power plants with a total output of about 200MW, including three sites in Odaka-ku where plants are being constructed on three sites, and wind turbines with 9.4MW of output in total are lined along the coastal area, forming one of the largest areas concentrated with renewable energy facilities in Japan.

Generation of clean energy by large-scale concentration of renewable energies is expected to eliminate reputational damage caused by the disaster at the nuclear power plant in the long run, but the income from the sale of power does not directly go back to the local residents or farmers.

Takahashi said that attention was paid to solar sharing thinking "if farmers operate solar power generation businesses under the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme as a second business when revitalization of agriculture has been stagnating, the income from the business will support the revenue base of farmers, supplementing the decline in income from farming and sustaining agriculture in Minamisoma."