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.
WHEN TRACKING ORCAS, SOLAR SHOWS THE WAY
Canadian Solar now powers the world-renowned OrcaLab Whale Research Center, situated on a remote island near Alert Bay off the British Columbia coast in Canada.
“Thanks to fantastic donations of solar panels and hardware from Canadian Solar Industries (CSI), OrcaLab has a new and vastly improved solar energy capacity,” said Dr. Paul Spong, the whale expert and researcher who founded the facility in 1970. “Almost unbelievably… we are now virtually free from the need to run a generator for hours every day to keep our systems running. Life has changed at OrcaLab, and for the better,” he said.
OrcaLab's work centers on research and conservation issues - preservation of orca habitat; release and rehabilitation of captive cetaceans, and bringing commercial whaling to an end. Its operations are centered on the philosophy that it’s possible to study the wild without interfering with lives or habitat. To this end a network of hydrophones (underwater microphones) and cameras positioned around the orcas' core-habitat, helps monitor their movements year-round. The newly donated solar system allows the off-grid OrcaLab to power its monitoring system with solar energy, while cutting generator use and fuel costs dramatically. Further, it increases battery performance, expands the range of hydrophones and cameras, as well as improves amenities for summer volunteers.
An added advantage of the solar system is that is requires minimal maintenance when compared to generators and lasts for decades. In addition to its primary functions, the solar solution on the island will help reduce carbon emissions from the generators by 1.5 to 2 tons per year. "We are honored to be involved in the ground-breaking OrcaLab foundation's research," said Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar. "And we are proud to be able to help advance the team's ambitious work through this latest exciting application of solar energy," he said. "As an industry leader, Canadian Solar strives to also lead in philanthropic efforts with organizations around the world, and this is why we are delighted to support OrcaLab," added Qu.
Discover more about OrcaLab's solar installation at http://orcalab.org/2013/05/04/orcalabs-fabulous-solar-upgrade/