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Environment Fukushima solar project ruining mountain


Unswerving cyclist
14 Mar 2002
Last summer, Yabuki Takeshi was shocked to see patches of bare land on the side of Mount Azumayama (吾妻山), a mountain renowned as one of Japan's 100 most scenic peaks. Upon inquiry, he discovered that trees had been felled for a mega solar project by a Canadian renewable energy company. Yabuki, an 82-year-old retiree with a background in finance, swiftly organized a residents' group to oppose the development. They gathered over 1,700 signatures on petitions, which they submitted to the prefectural and municipal governments in March. The project, provisionally named the Takayu hot spring solar power plant, faces growing public protest.

Mount Azumayama (吾妻山)

Photo credit: Okamoto Susumu via Asahi

The city government said it has been flooded with complaints about the project from residents in recent months. After the snow that had covered the mountain melted, the swaths of the bare surface became more conspicuous and infuriated residents. Construction began in November 2021 on the mountainside between 300 to 600 meters in elevation, about 10 kilometres west of JR Fukushima Station. About 105,000 solar panels will be installed on the 60-hectare site, equivalent to 13 Tokyo Domes. The solar farm, with an output capacity of 40 megawatts, is scheduled to be completed in February 2025. The developer plans to generate electricity for five to 10 years after doing so for the first 20 years under the feed-in tariff system, which requires electric power companies to purchase renewable energy at prices set by the central government.

In Fukushima, the prefectural capital, there are 26 solar farms with an output capacity of 1 megawatt or more, including those currently under construction. Among them, a facility in a forest five kilometres from the city centre stands out with an impressive 80-megawatt capacity—the largest within the city limits. Interestingly, despite their significant energy contribution, these solar farms have remained inconspicuous from a distance, avoiding local controversy. However, the ongoing project at Mount Azumayama has sparked debate due to its impact on the scenic vista. City officials emphasized landscape preservation during the environmental impact assessment, recognizing that Mount Azumayama holds tourism value and spiritual significance for local residents.

The Canadian operator is CanadianSolar.

My neighbor had solar panels put on his roof. I went down in his cellar and was stunned by all the wiring that went to the system. I guess his are used to sell power back to the local power company. He explained to make full use of them to power his house , you need a lot of big expensive batteries. I guess they told him "payback" time would take about 10 years. His panels do seem to hold up to snow , ice and high winds which is impressive. His biggest issue with them is the tall building right next door to his house blocks the sun for half the day. I'm told my steel roof would be a big problem for doing it on my roof. He's only had his about 3 years so I'm interested to follow how they will work out in the future.
I have solar on my roof. My payback at the time was 8 years but no battery I have 4 years left. Without a battery in the US they require a cutoff so when there is an outage no power goes to the grid to protect the lineman or so they say. What the battery gives you is the ability to run during a power outage. I also drive a LEAF for all regional driving so I drive on "free" electricity. With a larger more complicated battery system one could try to sell power at times of higher cost to try to make money but really other than that (which very few have) there is no pay back for battery at all. Yes the panels can take hail, rain, snow etc. My wife loves driving electric not only for the torque but not filling up with stinky gas. As she is Japanese maybe that could be used to help convert more Japanese. The LEAF is not the best long distance car (slow charging and it overheats with too many fast charges unlike higher end electric cars) so we also have a 10 year old prius just for full disclosure.

My family owns a small solar farm on a field in Nagasaki they say they use to make money so there must be some kind of net metering as well but I have not asked about it in detail. I see solar in the stores in Japan and since we are apparently inheriting a house in the future I may look at putting solar on it once I learn about Japanese net metering (selling back to the grid) and we move back. I saw two of our family have a LEAF in the area (that area is mostly all our family) but did not talk to them about it yet as our move won't be for at good 8 or so years I think as long as my mother in law's health holds up (she is only 69).
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