The Japanese government introduced a system whereby electric utility operators are obligated to purchase electricity produced by solar farms, and other renewable sources, at fixed prices. The system started from July 1, 2012. In order to benefit from the program, suppliers must obtain approval by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).
Under the feed-in tariff (FIT), utilities will enter into 20-year terms to from solar power suppliers. The purchase price of solar power is expected to be set at 42 Yen per kilowatt-hour.
Compared to nuclear power, solar power panels and plants are relatively easy to maintain, can be installed on rooftops, and the industry is accessible to far more players. As of February 2012, there were approximately 80 mega-solar farms in operation, under construction or planned across Japan. 25 of those were developed by electric power companies, while 48 were developed by other corporations.
With the introduction of the new system, there has been an increase in the number of firms looking at developing solar farms on Japan’s many unused golf courses.
Unused golf courses, resorts and former sports fields are all possible sites for developing solar farms. Even the excess land around operating golf courses is being redirected towards providing renewable energy.
Mori Trust recently purchased the La Foret Shirakawa golf club in Izumizaki, Fukushima, will begin construction on a mega-solar farm. The project has an estimated cost of 4 billion Yen and is expected to be completed by mid-2013. They are expecting to produce an initial output of 2-Mw, with a planned increase to 10-Mw (enough to power 3000 households). When complete, it will be the largest solar farm in the Tohoku region.
The La Foret course was operated by Mori Trust, but closed down after the Tohoku earthquake. The 18 hole course covers a 148 hectare site.
Golf courses that are currently in the process of being converted to mega solar farms:
- La Foret Shirakawa Golf Course (Fukushima)
- Haruna Country Club (Gunma)
- Nikke Golf Club Tsuchiyama Course (Hyogo)
- Rosebay Country Club (Gunma) – excess land and city-owned land will be used
- Matsuyama Golf Club (Ehima) – excess land will be used
Planned conversions to mega solar farms:
- Fukushima Airport Golf Club (Fukushima)
- Temmyo Country Club (Miyagi)
- Garden Valley Country Club (Fukushima)