Japan is planning to build a network of floating solar plants in a bid to facilitate the adoption of renewable energy in the land-scarce archipelago nation.
Japanese solar panel company Kyocera Corp is teaming up with Century Tokyo Leasing Corp to construct a pair of gigantic floating solar energy plants which could be operational by as soon as April 2015.
The two plants, both of which will be built in collaboration French renewable energy firm Ciel Terra, will be situated in ponds in the Japanese prefecture of Hyogo just west of Osaka. The first will possess 1.7 megawatts of capacity and the second a capacity of 1.2 megawatts, with work on the project set to commence next month.
The two plants are just the start of Kyocera and Century Tokyo's plans to build a total of approximately 30 floating power plants with a combined capacity of 60 megawatts. The two companies entered a partnership in August 2012 to create approximately 93 megawatts of solar power, of which 22 megawatts is already online.
Kyocera already runs a 70-megawatt offshore solar plant in Kagoshima prefecture in the south of Japan, which commenced operation on 1 November 2013.
The Japanese government is striving to foster the adoption of renewable energy in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima meltdown, which soured public opinion on nuclear power. Projects like the offshore installation at Kagoshima and the Kyocera's network of floating solar plants are benefiting in particular from Japan's revised feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, which was adjusted in July 2012 to require local utilities to buy 100 per cent of the electricity produced by solar plants with capacities of more than 10 kilowatts for a two decade period.
The innovative technique of building solar plants on floating structures could dramatically reduce expenses by dispensing with the need for construction on the ground - particularly in a teeming archipelago nation like Japan, where real estate is extremely expensive due to both scarcity of land and high population density.
The method also has the added advantage of raising output and reducing maintenance requirements compared to solar panels installed on the ground or building rooftops, due to the cooling effect of the water on which the devices rest.
Japan is not the only country to give serious consideration to the benefits of floating solar installations.
Developers in Australia are pushing for the development of a floating solar farm on top of the basins of a waste water treatment facility situated around 200 kilometres to the north of Adelaide, while India plans to build its own giant 50-megawatt solar power plant in a floating platform by the end of the year in the southern state of Kerala.
In addition to the aforementioned benefits, the deployment of floating solar installations in these torrid, sun-drenched parts of the world has the added advantage of helping to maintain scarce water reserves by reducing evaporation rates.