Softbank, Mitsui team up on mega-solar farm in Tottori

March 08, 2012

The Softbank Group announced that it will join forces with trading house Mitsui & Co. to build a “mega-solar power facility” in Tottori Prefecture.

Softbank had already revealed plans to construct several large-scale solar farms in Japan. On March 7, the company said the largest of those will be located in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, with plans to commence operation in the summer of 2013.

The output of the Yonago solar farm will be 30 megawatts while its power generation per year will be 31,550 megawatt-hours, equivalent to the total annual power consumption of 7,500 average households.

The amount of investment in the project, including the installation of solar panels, will be about 10 billion yen (roughly $125 million), the company said.

The solar farm will be built in the Yonago Sakitsu industrial complex, which is jointly owned by the Tottori prefectural government and the Yonago city government. Softbank was urged to construct the facility there because most of the space in the complex has remained vacant.

On March 6, the Softbank Group’s natural energy developer, SB Energy Corp., concluded a contract with Mitsui & Co. for construction of the facility. SB Energy will be in charge of negotiations with local governments while Mitsui will deal with electric power companies.

The central government plans to start on July 1 a program to oblige electric power companies to purchase electricity from natural energy producers at fixed prices. As soon as the prices are set and some other details have been worked out, SB Energy and Mitsui will decide how to procure funds for the construction.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, Softbank decided to make inroads into the natural energy market. It plans to construct solar or wind farms in more than 10 locations throughout the country. Their total output will be some 200 megawatts.

Softbank has already decided to build solar farms in four locations in Gunma, Kyoto and Tokushima prefectures. However, the output of each of those four solar farms ranges only from 2 to 4 megawatts.

Meanwhile, major Osaka-based railway operator Kintetsu Corp. also plans to make inroads into the solar power generation business. Kintetsu will build a mega-solar farm in Mie Prefecture, with operations expected to start in fiscal 2013 at the earliest. The solar farm-produced electricity will be sold based on the central government’s program that starts July 1.

Kintetsu President Tetsuya Kobayashi revealed the plans in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun. It is the first time a railway operator has announced plans to construct a large-scale solar facility. The output of the facility will be up to 20 megawatts, covering the electricity needs for 6,000 average households.

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, electrical supply has been tight in the Kansai region in and around Osaka and railway operators based in the area have implemented electricity-saving measures.

Though Kintetsu has not yet cut back on its railway services, it is expected that the electricity supply could become unstable this summer.

“Railway companies can survive if we can get electricity,” said Kobayashi. “We will face difficulties, however, if we cannot obtain electricity in a stable manner. It’s necessary for everybody to make efforts to preserve the supply of electricity in Japan.”

(This article was compiled from reports by Jun Wakamatsu and Miho Tanaka.)

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Members of the Softbank Group test solar panels in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, on Dec. 22, 2011. (Yoichiro Shirase)

Members of the Softbank Group test solar panels in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, on Dec. 22, 2011. (Yoichiro Shirase)

  • Members of the Softbank Group test solar panels in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, on Dec. 22, 2011. (Yoichiro Shirase)

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