Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up

Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest and northernmost island, is known for its beautiful wild nature, delicious seafood, and fresh produce. Now another specialty is taking root: Large-scale megasolar power plants that take advantage of the island’s unique geography.

A new renewable energy incentive program has Japan on track to become the world’s leading market for solar energy, leaping past China and Germany, with Hokkaido at the forefront of the sun power rush. In a densely populated nation hungry for alternative energy, Hokkaido is an obvious choice to host projects, because of the availability of relatively large patches of inexpensive land. Unused industrial park areas, idle land inside a motor race circuit, a former horse ranch—all are being converted to solar farms. (See related, “Pictures: A New Hub for Solar Tech Blooms in Japan.”)

But there’s a problem with this boom in Japan’s north. Although one-quarter of the largest solar projects approved under Japan’s new renewables policy are located in Hokkaido, the island accounts for less than 3 percent of the nation’s electricity demand. Experts say Japan will need to act quickly to make sure the power generated in Hokkaido flows to where it is needed. And that means modernizing a grid that currently doesn’t have capacity for all the projects proposed, installing a giant battery—planned to be the world’s largest—to store power when the sun isn’t shining, and ensuring connections so power can flow across the island nation.

Written by Yvonne Chang. To read the full article, click here.

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ABB helps harness solar energy in the land of the rising sun

In addition to the design and engineering, ABB was also responsible for the supply of key products and systems including the control and protection as well a range of medium- and low-voltage switchgear, inverters and distribution transformers. ABB’s ability to fulfill the requirements of the higher-voltage system (DC 1,000V), which complies with IEC standards, was also a key differentiator.

“We are delighted to contribute to Japan’s efforts to redress its energy mix,” said Massimo Danieli, head of ABB’s Power Generation business, part of the company’s Power Systems division. “ABB’s vast power and automation portfolio, combined with domain expertise and global experience in the photovoltaic solar plant sector, enables us to provide an integrated and optimized solution that helps harness the maximum amount of energy and lower environmental impact.”

In the wake of its recent nuclear experience, Japan is making a concerted effort to increase the share of renewable energy in its mix. One initiative is a feed-in-tariff policy to facilitate solar energy deployment, which could make the country one of the world’s fastest-growing users of solar energy.

Written by ABB Communications. To read the full article, click here.

Japan: The world’s new star in solar power

FORTUNE — Until recently less than 1% of Japan’s electrical power output came from renewables. But following the catastrophe of Fukushima and the power blackouts that followed, Japan has seen an explosion in investment in alternatives. Solar, in particular, in this averagely photon-blessed country, has seen a seismic rise of late and is this year poised to become the world’s largest solar market in volume after China.
According to a report by energy analyst IHS on Japan’s energy mix, Japan’s solar installations jumped by “a stunning 270% (in gigawatts) in the first quarter of 2013.” That means by the end of 2013 there will be enough new solar panels equal to the capacity of seven nuclear reactors. Such massive growth will allow Japan to surpass Germany and become the world’s largest photovoltaics (PV) market in terms of revenue this year.

Written by Michael Fitzpatrick. To read the full article, click here