Softbank plans huge Hokkaido solar plant

With output of 200,000 kw, facility will be nation's largest

Kyodo

Softbank Corp. has selected Tomakomai, Hokkaido, as the site for Japan’s largest solar power plant, with an output capacity of at least 200,000 kw, industry sources said Wednesday.

Softbank subsidiary SB Energy Corp. is planning the facility in anticipation of cashing in on the government system that starting in July will oblige power utilities to purchase electricity from renewable energy sources generated by households and other firms.

The plant will have a maximum output capacity of 340,000 kw to cover some 100,000 households, and SB Energy is negotiating with Hokkaido Electric Power Co. over electricity purchases through the so-called feed-in tariff system, according to the sources.

The utility has responded that it can accept some 200,000 kw, based on the existing infrastructure for electricity delivery, they said.

Softbank, an Internet and telecommunications powerhouse, plans to install solar panels at a 480-hectare site on the waterfront of an industrial district in eastern Tomakomai, the sources said.

The company announced in early March that it was setting up solar power plants in Kyoto, Gunma and Tokushima prefectures, but the size of the plant in Tomakomai far exceeds the others. The Kyoto facility will have a capacity to produce 4,200 kw, the Gunma plant 2,400 kw and the Tokushima site 5,600 kw.

The government has yet to finalize the price of electricity generated by renewable energy sources. But if the price is set to a level that is profitable, more companies may consider building facilities that generate electricity from renewable energy sources, industry observers say.

Softbank and Hokkaido Electric will finalize when to begin the construction of the Tomakomai facility, as well as its output capacity and the amount of power to be purchased once the government finalizes the electricity price.

If the government sets the price below ¥40 per kwh, the amount believed necessary to generate a decent profit, the company may have to consider reducing the size of the plant.

No Tepco bonuses?

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is considering skipping summer bonuses for employees this year in an apparent bid to deflect criticism over its recent rate hike for corporate users, company sources said Tuesday.

Following the nuclear disaster at its Fukushima No. 1 power plant, Tepco cut the annual salaries of its employees, excluding those in managerial positions, by 20 percent. However, it paid both their summer and winter bonuses last year.

Those in managerial positions saw a 25 percent cut in their annual salaries.

Tepco is facing increased pressure to cut costs as part of efforts to finance massive compensation payments related to the nuclear crisis.

By showing greater efforts to reduce expenses, Tepco is hoping not only to soothe the anger of customers affected by the rate hike but also to secure approval for a fee increase for households starting in July.

The hikes are intended to help Tepco deal with increased fuel costs for thermal power generation.