Japan’s new floating solar power plants

Solar power is the future. But despite its huge advantages over conventional energy sources, it takes up a considerable amount of real estate. Not any more, though. Japan’s electronics giant Kyocera Corporation, in association with Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation, has completed construction of two floating solar power plants in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan.

After the disaster at Fukushima, Japan has increased its effort in investing in renewable energy and has become the world’s largest investor in solar power.

Only one thing hindered the solar efforts – the country’s lack of suitable land for developing a solar farm. This solar power plant is a part of the Fukushima prefecture, which has a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy by the year 2040.

The two floating solar power plants located at Nishihira and Higashihira Ponds in Kato City, would generate 1.7 MW and 1.2 MW of power respectively. They were built using Kyocera modules fixed to specially developed floating platforms which are attached to the lake beds.

The systems consist of almost 9,000 solar panels on a bed of polyethylene and are fully waterproofed. They are expected to generate 3300 MWh annually, providing clean energy for about 920 typical households annually.

According to Kyocera Corporation, these platforms are made of high-density polyethylene which can resist corrosion, withstand ultraviolet rays, and are 100% recyclable. They can also withstand high speed typhoons and are also earthquake proof. The one disadvantage is the high cost of installation and maintenance.

The main advantage of building a solar power plant over water is efficiency. The water underneath the modules would keep it cool and thus improve the efficiency of the whole system. Other advantages include water conservation by preventing evaporation from the ocean surface and promoting algae growth beneath the ocean surface. One problem that ground based solar power plants face is the dust and dirt, as areas with high solar concentration tend to be arid. But that is not a problem with floating solar power plants.

This solar plant is probably the largest floating power plant in the world, but not for long. Kyocera Corporation is planning a second solar farm east of Tokyo, slated to open next March. That plant would be much larger than the present one and is expected to provide electricity to 5000 households. That plant would generate an estimated 15,635 megawatt hours annually – more than five times as much as the plant that just went online.