Investing in a renewable future, one panel at a time
The disaster at Fukushima has inspired many in Japan to look more closely at safe, clean and renewable sources of energy. And imaginative ways of financing them.
One such initiative invites private citizens to help build “citizen solar parks” by investing in a little as one panel. They can even choose to rent a panel if they wish to. The first installation, comprising 360 Canadian Solar CS6P-P modules is located outside Hokuto City, Yamanashi Prefecture, and is surrounded by the scenic nature and farmland it aims to protect. Founder of the Citizen Solar movement, Mr. Sawa, explained that he was in the large-scale wind power generation business until his retirement a few years ago, and that he has never lost interest in the opportunities renewable energy offers.
“I spent the first years of my retirement educating children about the importance of moving towards renewables in order to prevent global warming,” said Mr. Sawa. “But when Fukushima happened I decided that education alone was not enough and I came up with the ‘Citizen Solar’ idea to more directly engage people in creating renewable energy solutions."
“I chose Hokuto City as the first location because it has plenty of sunshine compared to other parts of the country. It also has a cool climate that enables PV modules to perform more efficiently, the ideal place for solar power generation,” he said.
All the energy that the solar park produces is sold to a local power company and fed into the regional grid. The profits are then returned to investors. “Besides giving people the opportunity to show their support for a renewable future by making a real and immediate difference, the project also lets them enjoy a good return on their investment,” said Mr. Sawa. The imaginative project has also done a lot to raise awareness for solar power by capturing the attention of the media, and now enquiries from people wishing to invest are pouring in from all over the country.
The first facility, Hokuto 1 was completed in 2013. It was soon followed by Hokuto 2 and demand is such that 3, 4 and 5 are now also in the pipeline. “Our first two phases generate about 400 kWh a day between them and when all 5 phases are complete the project will generate 900 kWh,” said Mr. Sawa. “It is my hope that this is the start of something even bigger and that the people of Japan will work together to build a completely clean and sustainable energy future for ourselves,” he concluded.