Tag Archives: solar

Why not solar “Top Sales” too?

One common argument against Shinzo Abe that I often hear is that he is off doing nuclear power station “top sales” all around the world, but instead should be selling renewables; even Friday’s News Station had the anchor making the same comment on his visit to Portugal.

Now, let’s not get bogged down on the “instead”, but ponder why he is not putting a similar effort into selling solar and wind technologies.

My opinion is that it is not really his responsibility; nuclear (like weapon sales, etc) is a government-level decision in the order of hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars that requires head-of-state level agreement, whereas solar is on the whole smaller-scale projects, even if the sum total might exceed nuclear for a given country. Therefore, it is METI-level (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) support that is needed for such sales, not Abe-level.

I’m sure I saw figures somewhere recently that said the growth of investment in solar was highest in Japan, but while searching I found Singapore investing $500 million, GE $100-200 million, and First Solar another $100 million, so now I am totally confused.

Can someone help me understand?

Someone should have bought the Japan Times a calculator for Christmas

In this story on solar power, we see the following facts in a single paragraph:

Oita-ken will have a new 81.5 megawatt solar plant, which is 30,000 homes-worth.

Oita-ken already has a 70 megawatt solar plant, which is 70,000 homes-worth.

Osaka will soon have a 19.6 megawatt solar plant, which is 5,700 homes-worth.

One doesn’t even need a calculator to notice that 10 megawatts less can supply over twice as many homes, or that the Osaka one is a quarter of the size of the first, but can only supply a fifth of the houses. There really ought to be a standard way of expressing solar power (peak or averaged or potential) and a standard house power consumption.

 Oh, and Happy New Year to all (bar one) of my readers!

Japan Times lets politics get in the way of a good story

This nice story by Michael Hoffman in the Media ( :roll: ) section of the Japan Times takes a look at a hamlet that went solar. The main story is that an 11 household hamlet in Hyogo found 21 million yen in their 町内会 account, so decided to buy enough panels to produce the equivalent of the electricity consumption of these 11 homes. The writer is translating (and embellishing it here and there) the contents of an article in Josei Seven (thus the Media section) where is says:

Sanno is the first municipality in Japan to produce all its own electricity from renewable energy — a splendid declaration of independence while the nation wallows in nuclear angst, indecision and inertia.

Are 11 houses a municipality? It’s not a declaration of independence as they are still on the grid – if anything it’s a declaration of dependence on the solar subsidy. As far as I am aware, the current 21 yen per kilowatt over retail price is guaranteed for the full 20 years for installations of this type (domestic have a 10 year guarantee), so they are, I suppose, independent from government fiddling with the solar subsidy, as they surely will have to do in a few years.

Interestingly enough, though, the solar initiative originally had little to do with nuclear fears.

The intention was not to protest the government’s dull unresponsiveness in the wake of one of the world’s worst peacetime catastrophes of modern times, but, intentional or not, the protest sounds loud and clear.

So which is it? Little to do or nothing to do with nuclear fears? How is it a protest? It seems just like a cold, calculated business move, and I salute the old codgers for taking advantage of the over-generous buy-back scheme.

The writer then goes on to express his own anti-nuclear opinion:

The report appeared within days of Kepco’s dubious reactivation of Reactor No. 3 at Oi.

What’s a "dubious reactivation"? If there is dubiousness, it came from the government decision, Kepco were just following the order they had hoped to receive.

BTW, next year I am on our apartment block’s union committee, and I’ll be suggesting we bung up a few solar panels on our roof by investing our management fees for a few years in that rather than buying the reliable but boring savings bonds we currently do.

So, how much solar power is SoftBank producing?

Following on from last night’s post, I checked the data in this story.

The first of two phases of the overall project sees 8,680 Kyocera modules equaling approximately 2.1MW of solar power installed in the southern part of Kyoto City, Japan. This will generate roughly 2.1GWh of electricity annually, which is enough to supply power for approximately 580 households.

A quick Google tells me that the 2.1MW should be written as 2.1MWp, with the ‘p’ for ‘peak’, and a calculation tells me that 2.1GWh/y from 2.1MW works out at an effective 2.7 hours a day, or a perhaps easier to understand form is to state the output as 5.8MWh/day. Phase two will double the size, so provide the power for 1,160 households, or almost 0.2% of the households in Kyoto City. At that size it feels more like a PR exercise and a technology demonstration than a serious attempt to supply renewable power.

On the other hand, SB Energy Corp will see an income of 42 yen * 5,800 kWh * 2 or just under half a million yen per day, or just over 175 million yen per year. Google suggests a US retail price of around $400 per panel, so even at retail prices, this park might cost around 550 million yen to kit out, thus even allowing for all the other costs and variables, I would hazard a guess that it will be significantly less than 10 years to pay back the investment.

Note that according to the feed-in tariff law, this rate is guaranteed (or can it be renegotiated?) to last 20 years for large-scale 10kW+ plants, but only 10 years for smaller domestic-scale production. Furthermore, large plants get paid even for electricity they use to run the installation; domestic owners only get paid for the excess they send back to the grid. Now I think about it, I wonder if SoftBank might plonk a data centre or a mobile transmitter on site and get paid to run it?

You can also monitor TEPCO’s larger scale megasolar plants at Komekurayama, Ukishima and Ougishima online.

Looking at Komekurayama on the rather sunny 29th of June, it has a peak rating of 13MW judging by the left-hand legend, and generated 65.890MWh that day, which works out at a respectable effective 5 hours per day of output. However, the rather wet 1st of July managed just 11.280MWh, or the equivalent of a mere 52 minutes of peak output.

PS: I wonder how the reaction will be if/when one of these projects uses Chinese panels?

PPS: I’ll have to do a post to clarify my stance, but I reckon it’s similar to many people here; nukes are needed for now at least, financially-viable renewables are good, as is separating generation and transmission, and last but not least a Sir John Harvey-Jones or Gordon Ramsay needs to rampage through KEPCO, TEPCO and the rest with a very sharp axe!

Solar power reporters with a touch of the sun (and Son)

With a site name like http://phys.org one has high hopes for the quality of articles, but instead we get this AFP wire feed verbatim:

The government estimates the power provided by renewable energy this year in Japan will attain 2,500 megawatts, the equivalent of two medium-sized nuclear reactors.

A quick Google will tell the reader that that is just a wee bit more than Oi 3 and 4’s nominal rating, but what is missing, of course, is a time element. That nuclear station can pump out 2 GW day in day out, but what does that 2,500 MW figure represent? The peak maximum, average per day, maximum rating for everything all added together, or what?

Next, Softbank’s Mr Son gushes:

“Ultimately, if you take the long view, renewable energy will have the cheapest power generation costs,” said Mr. Son, saying that a solar or wind power plant can pay off its set-up expenses within 20 years, and after that it has no resource costs.

Is that 20 year pay-off calculated including the feed-in tariff at current levels? Countries more into renewables than Japan (UK and Holland are two I recently read about) are busy cutting back their feed-in tariffs, and a look around the web suggests that solar panels have a life of 20 to 40 years, and wind turbines 20 to 30, and of course wind turbines in particular need ongoing maintenance, and Holland is finding that offshore turbines are quite expensive to service and maintain in the salty environment.

Finally, in a move designed to get the conspiracy theorists all a-lather, a thermal power station near Himeji croaks:

The campaign took on greater urgency on Monday when Kansai Electric Power, whose service area is being asked to cut usage by 15 percent, said they had suspended operation at a thermal power plant in Himeji, western Japan, because of a steam leakage.

News reports said it would take about 10 days before power generation at the plant could be brought back online, with the outage expected to raise estimated power demand in the region from 81 percent of capacity to 86 percent.