Kepco’s massive solar plant up and running

Kyodo

Kansai Electric Power Co. has finished building Japan’s largest solar power plant, a 10,000-kilowatt facility in Osaka Prefecture capable of generating enough electricity to run about 3,000 households.

It has also started testing a system with a cluster of nickel hydrate batteries that can store and supply power in a stable manner, the company said Wednesday.

The cluster, set up in a transformer station near the solar facility in the waterfront area of Sakai, is capable of storing some 100 kwh.

The output of solar plants tends to fluctuate depending on the weather, so Kansai Electric is looking to establish a technology that allows it to release stored electricity whenever output from the new facility falls, it said.

It also hopes the system will help it keep the solar plant’s power output steady.

The 21-hectare facility has 74,000 solar-cell panels manufactured by Sharp Corp.

Kansai Electric said it began building the plant in 2009 and started operating the solar cells in stages last October. Wednesday was the first day in which all the panels were generating power, a month ahead of the original schedule.

The company wants the plant to highlight its efforts to generate more power from renewable sources.

“We would like to expedite a wider use of renewable energy sources” by spreading knowledge and experience obtained at the new plant, Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi said during the inauguration ceremony.

“It requires setting up a very large number (of solar panels) if we are to meet large demand with renewable energy sources, so it will be difficult for them to replace atomic energy,” he added.

Incentive program eyed

Trade minister Yoshio Hachiro has suggested launching an incentive program to promote energy-saving products like LED light bulbs and stimulate consumption.

What he tentatively called the “energy-saving point” program is expected to imitate the Eco-point program for power-saving home appliances that was terminated at the end of March.

Hachiro told reporters about his idea for the new shopping-point program after meeting Wednesday with Yasuchika Hasegawa, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives.

“I want to include (the plan) in the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2011,” he said.

Public awareness of the need to cut power consumption has increased in the face of the potential electricity shortages posed by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Hachiro’s incentive program would also be aimed at supporting the flagging economy amid the yen’s sharp appreciation against other major currencies and growing concerns over a slowdown in the U.S. and European economies.

Under the Eco-point subsidy system introduced in May 2009 as part of an economic stimulus package, buyers of certain types of efficient electronics appliances, such as flat-screen TVs and air conditioners, received shopping points that could be applied to the purchase other goods and services.