Electronics conglomerate Kyocera has commenced operation of Japan’s largest ever solar plant, as the archipelago nation strives to find alternatives to nuclear power post-Fukushima.
The new Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega Solar Power Plant is situated in the prefecture of Kagoshima, at the bottom tip of the island of Kyushu in the south of the country.
With a total installed capacity of 70 megawatts Kyocera says the new facility is now the largest solar plant in Japan, capable of supplying electricity to around 22,000 households.
The coastal facility is comprised of 290,000 offshore solar panels suspended on the waters of Kagoshima Bay, and covers an immense area of approximately 314 acres.
The site of the plant lies in the very shadow of Sakurajima, an active volcano with an elevation of 1,117 metres which continues to shed ash on the surrounding area.
Sakurajima's last eruption occurred in 1914, and was the most powerful volcanic event witnessed by Japan in the 20th century. The eruption transformed the geological features of Kagoshima Bay, while its lava flow converted the island on which the volcano sits into a peninsula connected to the adjacent land mass by an isthmus of hardened lava.
The opening of the plant arrives in the wake of efforts by the government to boost usage of renewable energy, as a direct response to the Fukushima disaster which has shaken the country's confidence in the safety of nuclear power and triggered a phaseout of its reactor fleet.
"Expectations and interest in solar energy have heightened to a new level in Japan with the need to resolve power supply issues resulting from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011," said Kyocera in a press release.
In July 2012 the Japanese government launched a restructured feed-in-tariff (FIT) program which mandates that local utilities must buy 100 per cent of the power generated by by solar installations of more than 10 kilowatts for a period of 20 years.
The Kagoshima Solar Power Plant is one of the beneficiaries of the sea change in energy policy, selling the electricity it generates to regional utility Kyoshu Electric Power Co under the terms of the new FIT program.
The plant will be operated by Kyocera Solar Corporation and Kyudenko Corporation, who constructed the plant in collaboration with Takenaka Corporation.