After almost a year of testing, Japan's newest and largest solar power plant finally has all its panels generating clean, renewable energy with no unpleasant side effects – I'm looking at you, Fukushima.
The plant is operated by Kansai Electric Power Co., KEPCO for short, and the 10,000-kilowatt facility near the city of Sakai can now get on with the business of supplying approximately 3,000 households with alternative energy.
The plant sprawls over 21 hectares and features 74,000 solar-cell panels manufactured by Sharp Corp., one of Japan's leading lights (pardon the pun) in solar energy generation and the country's biggest maker of solar cells. “I have a very high expectations,” said Mikio Katayama, Sharp's president, “especially for our thin-film solar cells which had been limited to overseas sales.”
All the solar panels in the world won't be enough on cloudy days or after sunset, and KEPCO has an ace up their sleeve to counteract the main sticking point about solar power plants: consistent delivery of electricity.
As the Solar Sakai plant was being built, KEPCO's engineers were concurrently constructing a cluster of high-capacity Nickel Hydrate batteries to not only store the solar plant's energy, but release electricity into the grid at times when solar power generation was occurring at a lower than acceptable rate. Situated at a transformer station on Sakai's waterfront, the battery cluster can store up to 100 kwh of electricity.
Considering Japan's population, a new plant that provides for the energy needs of 3,000 households is a drop in the bucket. It's a good first step, however, in the government-led effort to wean Japan off of unsustainable fossil fuels and most especially, nuclear power.
“We would like to expedite a wider use of renewable energy sources,” stated Kansai Electric President Makoto Yagi (left) at Sakai Solar's inauguration ceremony, but spreading the knowledge and experience gained from the new plant won't be a simple task.
“It requires setting up a very large number (of solar panels),” explained Yagi, “if we are to meet large demand with renewable energy sources.” True enough, Mr. Yagi, so we advise Mr. Katayama and yourself to make hay (and more solar panels) while the sun shines. (via Japan Times and Bloomberg News)