E-Flat Co Ltd built 3.6MW of agricultural solar power plants for solar sharing in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture, Japan, and had a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the plants April 5, 2019.
E-Flat (Chuo-ku, Tokyo) is a company that deals with renewable energy businesses including solar and biomass power generation. At the plants, Japanese star anise, an evergreen small tree used for family Buddhist altars, etc, is grown under solar panels.
On about 8ha of abandoned farmland in Jinjiro-machi, Matsuyama City, two solar power plants adjacent to each other were built by using a system for temporary diversion of agricultural land. The two plants have almost the same scale with a total solar panel capacity of 1.8MW and a grid capacity of 1.5MW. When combined, they are probably one of the largest-scale solar power plants in the Shikoku region of Japan.
The power producer of one plant is E-Flat, and that of the other plant is a company affiliated with Niihama Iron Works Co Ltd (Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture). The Iyo Bank Ltd gave a loan for the power generation business at the two sites. The total project cost is about ¥1.2 billion (approx US$10.8 million).
Electricity generated at the plants is sold to Shikoku Electric Power Co Inc at a price of ¥36/kWh based on the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme.
Also, E-Farm Co Ltd (Tsuchiura City, Ibaraki Prefecture), which is affiliated with the E-Flat group, is responsible for agriculture at the plants. E-Farm purchased the land and owns it. It planted about 23,000 seedlings of Japanese star anise under solar panels in December 2018.
The area for agriculture measures about 5.5ha. The solar panels block more than 50% of sunlight. But Japanese star anise colors well when shaded, increasing in quality, according to E-Flat. E-Farm expects to harvest about 47t of Japanese star anise and plans to sell it through a local JA (agricultural cooperative) after four or five years.