01.01.2017 / Blog

From Surfing and Solar Energy

It’s the Hawaii of Japan: With its hot springs, beaches and surfers, the prefecture Kagoshima is one of the tourist hot spots for people from Japan and abroad.

In this beautiful region, the joint venture juwi Shizen Energy Inc. has just commissioned a 20 megawatt photovoltaic power plant.

Approximately 1.000 kilometers south from Tokyo, at the most southern tip of the Japanese isles, a true paradise is hidden: Kagoshima is beautiful, volcanic and apart from its many hot springs, the region is known for its pork and beef. Amid this touristy region lies solar farm Kagoshima-Kirishima on a former golf course. Discontinued golf courses are not uncommon in Japan, says project manager Takayuki Kasama, who is in charge of the photovoltaic power plant.

“About 30 years ago, golf was a very popular sport in Japan. Since then, however, the Japanese population declined and with it the number of people interested in this traditional ball game.”

Project Manager Takayuki Kasama

This is what Kasama and his colleagues from juwi Shizen Energy found in the fall of 2012 in Kirishima. But they were confronted with many challenges in the process of planning the plant. “The biggest challenge certainly was planning the substation and the grid connection. More than 13 kilometers of cable were needed in order to connect the PV plant to the grid. Moreover, the transmission line had to be passed through private and public grounds. As a result, we had to negotiate with individuals as well as with the public sector. This took quite a while”, explains the project manager.

Kasama’s perseverance paid off.

In August 2015 construction work for the solar plant began. 76.980 polycrystalline modules were being used. “The plant will produce about 21.000 megawatt hours of solar power per year. This is enough energy for 5.800 Japanese households,“ says Takayuki Kasama. Soon, the park will be handed over to a listed integrated facility company affiliated with an energy supplier. “This project provided a wonderful opportunity to establish a good relationship with a large company. It shows that renewable energies are widely accepted by the public and big corporations.”

The 37-year-old father of two has not always been this positive: He studied renewable energies at university, but after graduating he simply could not find a job in this sector. This is why Kasama started to work for a marketing company. For ten years, he worked in a completely different branch, but this engagement also paid off: One of his colleagues and friends was Ken Isono, one of the later founders of Shizen Energy, a project developer for solar, wind and small hydroelectric energy.
2012, one year after the catastrophic nuclear accident in Fukushima, Takayuki Kasama changed jobs and started working for the newly founded company of his good friend. Together with co-founder Kenji Kawado and Masaya Hasegawa, these men had one vision: Making Japan renewable. “The initial months were exciting. We lived in one flat, we shared meals and we knew we wanted to build photovoltaic power plants at all costs. But we needed a little help,“ Kasama tells us smilingly. “This is why we imported know-how from Germany. Pedro Morales Iglesias from juwi came to Japan to help us start off.“ This is how the first contact between the Japanese start-up and the well-established German project developer juwi came about. And many more were to follow, Kasama explains: „In 2012, I travelled to Germany with the three founders of Shizen Energy to meet with the juwi bosses. Together, the idea of the joint venture juwi Shizen Energy was born.” Ever since then, the dream of these men has become reality.
About 50 persons work for juwi Shizen Energy today. “Right after the Fukushima accident, the Japanese government initiated a subsidy programm called FIT. This might be going to end in the near future. The market will certainly consolidate. But today no-one can imagine a Japanese energy sector without renewables,“ Kasama says. He watches the government’s plans of energy mix carefully though: “We are now trying to compete with the costs of conventional electricity. The future is renewable, there’s no other way,” the passionate surfer says.

„We are now trying to compete with the costs of conventional electricity. The future is renewable, there’s no other way!”

Project Manager Takayuki Kasama


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