For September issue of AG, I went to see Softbank’s mega solar power plant installed in Shinto village, Gunma-ken. With 10,122 panels, this plant generates electricity to cover 740 households for a year (2,680,000kWh).
Shinto Mega Solar Park - Lucky if you can go on a sunny day!
This solar power plant, aka “Heavenly Lake”, is built in the middle of highland surrounded by mountains (fantastic view! seriously). The day I visited was very beautiful day, and the panels reflecting the blue sky shine and change its color like a clear lake. (I heard it’s used for promotional video or TV clip location. I guess it should..)
It’s also quiet, it doesn’t smell burnt and it’s comfortable to be near them. I somehow thought the “mega solar power plant” must be like a big hot flying pan (imagining I can make fried eggs on the panels) but it just sits there gracefully in beautiful scenery. That was surprising to me.
It does look like a lake!
This mega solar plant started its operation from this July, along with the new energy law in Japan took effect (now they can sell renewable energy). In fact, quite a lot of projects related to natural energy started from Jul 1. After the huge earthquake and its consequent disaster of Fukushima nuclear plant, the nation has been seeking alternative energy that is safe for human and environment. It’s so sad that we didn’t consider the importance of renewable energy until something horrible happened. But since we can’t go back to the past with De Lorean, we have to move forward by not repeating the same mistake…
Having said that, it’s way too early to decide if these mega solar power plant can be the reliable alternative energy. Obviously the biggest concern is stability because it’s completely up to weather which… we cannot control. I heard Shinto village’s plant is doing good, but other places have tough time getting enough sunshine… and this directly affects profitability. I believe most of the companies trying out this business are now in trial stage, but if they found out this can’t make any profit they will walk away. And a couple of solar power plants are not enough to replace a nuclear plant…
Softbankis one of the biggest telecommunication companies in Japan (known by white dog daddy) and this company has shown its strength and efficiency especially after the huge earthquake. I’m sure they have strong strategy behind this solar power plant, but partly they created this facility as a model that others can follow. (They show real time power status, click one of the places on Japan map.) If they successfully prove this can be a good business, definitely other companies will follow. For publicly-owned plants… I talked to some public workers from different cities in Gunma as a part of research, a lot of them mumbled that they cannot gamble with this business… yet (right, because their chips are coming from our wallets). So mostly they offer available space for private company and get land-use fee.
Oh well, I guess we’ll see how it goes in 2 to 3 years time. By end of next year, at least 7 more mega solar power plants will be built in Gunma soon (we’re blessed with sunshine condition).
Personally, seeing the high technology panels and beautiful mountains together, I can’t stop thinking that this is the future. After consuming and damaging nature for the development, finally the technology which can coexist with the nature. And I found it’s really cool. (I’ve read Google is testing their tide-operated power plant to generate some energy to use. “Generate Your Own Energy” can be a theme for future technology company. Having power plant on the roof or something… That’ll be awesome.)
View from the solar plant
Shinto village is offering a free 40min tour of this mega solar plant regularly. You can walk around the ‘solar park’ with a guide (the plant is closed usually, so you need to book beforehand). I highly recommend this tour. Be sure to wear something warm and comfortable (No heels!) and bring a camera. Shinto village is… quite a hidden place in hidden Gunma :D , but they got yummy grapes and there’s a winery too. So, go check out the solar power plant and winery. :) Village has a plan to open this space for training tracks or outdoor concerts in the future.
|AG (from Asahi Gunma) 2012 September Issue|