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Overview of Photovoltaics in Japan

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 4292 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Grid Connected Solar Electric System


Japan, an Island country in East Asia is in the Pacific Ocean that lies off the eastern coast of Asian mainland and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and China in the southwest. It has a population of 127 million which is the tenth largest in the world. [1]

Japans’ dependency on resources for energy supply has been fluctuating since 1950. In 1950, around 50% of the energy was extracted from the coal with very little production from Hydro (33%) and oil (17%) with no production from Natural gas and nuclear. In 1973, oil became the primary source for the energy supply with a percentage of 75.5%. Later in 1973 due to the oil shock, Japan decreased their oil dependency and by promoting alternative energy resources that were not in consideration prior, such as nuclear power and natural gas. They continue to diversify their dependency and oil was reduced from 75.5% to 40.3% in FY 1973 to FY 2010, respectively. In March 2011, the country again faced nuclear power crises because of the earthquake and the nuclear incident at their Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant that resulted in the deficiency of nuclear power and to compensate the smooth running of the energy they again had to go back to the fossil fuel (oil in particular) but late in 2015 they restarted their two power plan and increase their renewable resources dependency and finally in the latest composition i.e. in FY2016 the oil source dropped to 39.7% with renewable energy expansion from 4.3% to 7%. [2]

LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is referred as a clean fossil fuel with the emission of greenhouse gas. In the recent year of Japan energy supply it was almost non-existence, this resource marked the spot when the nuclear power plant got shutdown and it was an urgent need to provide stable electric power supply, so LNG thermal power generation contributed. It is predicted that the LNG demand will be increasing in the future. [3]


The electricity rates in FY 2010 increased from 20.4 Yen/kWh to 25.5 Yen/kWh for homes and from 13.7 Yen/kWh to 18.8% Yen/kWh for industries, after the earthquake and nuclear power plant incident due to the average cost of the imported fuel. However, the cost reduced significantly since FY 2014 because of decline in the crude oil cost from 20.4 Yen/kWh to 25.5 Yen/kWh for homes and from 13.7 Yen/kWh to 18.8% Yen/kWh for industries. From the graph it can be considered that electric rates increased 25% for homes and for industrial use it increased to 38%, whereas, from 2014 the electric rate decreased 10% for homes and about 14% for industrial use. [3]

In Japan, there are 10 companies that has share in the electricity market and they are listed as below: [4]

In one of the reports published in March 23, 2017, it was stated that 14 major electricity production firms are most likely to increase their rates in May for the time in a row due to the rise in the imported fuels. Estimated predictions made were that if household uses 260 kilowatt-hours of electricity then the cost is expected to rise from 190 yen to roughly around 6,605 yen ($59.57) for Tepco Energy Partner’s customers. Similarly, for another electric power i.e. Kansai, the customers will pay 190 yen to 6,825 yen. [5]


Nuclear disaster was the turning point for the renewable resources to mark a spot in the energy resources, prior to that renewable only contributed 2% of the total energy supply. It was then when renewable was considered an effective way of generating electricity to let go electricity prices, dependency of import and greenhouse gas emissions. In 2011, after the incident that took place in 2010, the annual PV system capacity installed surpassed 1 GW for the first time and reached about 1.3 GW. From figure 4, it can be shown that in 2010 the annual installed capacity was 991 MW i.e. 31% decrease as compared to 2011. From figure 5, we can depict market segment of the installed PV system. [6]

In July 2012, the government promoted the series of incentives such as FiT9Feed in Tariff) that helped renewable (PV) to gain strength. Due to the promotional scheme provided by the government, within 2 years the total annual production increased from 1.3 GW to 10.5 GW, which brought Japan amongst the country that has the fast-growing PV market worldwide in 2013 and 2014.

Considering 2016, the electricity produced by Japan with the help of renewable energy was 21.4%, hydroelectric power included. Figure 6 shows that Japan needs to expand as it is lacking behind other major countries.

Previously, before the FiT the PV industry in Japan used to focus on the households but with the passage of time and as the households came out of FiT, they found another way for solar use. Japan introduced a new concept of ‘virtual power plant’, in this if the PV production is more than what is required or is in excess, the heat pump use is considered from night to mid-day. Due to this initiative, there are 5 million heat pumps currently in Japan. It is said that Japan installed around 149MWh resulting in approximately 1.2GWh energy. [7]

By the end of 2017, total capacity reached up to 50GW, marking its spot in the second largest solar PV installed capacity (after China). [8]

Figure 6:Comparison of the Renewable Energy Ratio in the Generated Electric Power Amount

There are 9 companies in Japan: 1) Sharp 2) Sanyo-Panasonic 3) Kyocera 4) Mitsubishi 5) Mitsui 6) Toshiba 7) Honda 8) Solar Frontier 9) Tokuyama


1)     Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega-Solar Power Plant:

It is the largest solar project that was completed in November 2013, in the city of Kagoshima. It produces 70 MW of power using 290,000 photovoltaic panels on a land that could accommodate roughly 27 Tokyo Domes or 22,000 houses. The Kagoshima Mega Solar power corporation was funded by 7 companies that together built the Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega-Solar Power Plant. Its total investment was 27 billion yen, almost 78,000 people from 208 construction companies helped in the construction of this plant and it took almost one year and two months to get completed. [9]

Figure 7:Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega-Solar Power Plant (provided by Kyocera Corporation) [9]

2)     13.7MW floating solar PV plant:

According to the power output, 13.7MW floating solar PV plant is the largest power plant. It is in Ichihara on the Yamakura Dam reservoir, covering water surface area of approximately 180,000m2 i.e. 44 acres and is comprised of 50,904(approximately) solar modules. 

Tokyo century corporation along with Kyocera corporation constructed this plant which can generate around 16,170MWh per year, which is good enough to provide energy to 4,970 houses. This project was completed and inaugurated in March 2018. [10]

Figure 8:he 13.7MW floating solar PV plant on the Yamakura Dam reservoir [10]

3)     Kyocera’s 21.1MW floating PV plant:

Floating PV plant is another large-scale PV installation that was carried out in Japan in Hagi city, in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Kyocera Corporations and Tokyo Century Corporation were the soul shareholder of the project. The floating PV plant was installed on a land with the area of 1km2

with 78,144 of Kyocera’s modules installed. This project was initially constructed for an industrial waste disposal facility.

The plant is expected to generate around 23,000MWh of electricity annual which will be used by Chugoku Electric Power Co., a local utility. It is the second largest solar power plant in Japan. The company from 2012 have installed 58 plants that is able to generate power up to 166.9MW. [11]

Figure 9:Kyocera’s 21.1 MW solar PV plant in Japan’s Hagi City [11]

Moreover, Japan is progressing in terms of bringing solar energy into use by planning systematically about the upcoming construction. Some of the projects that are currently in progress and planned are as under:

Figure 10: Mega solar power plants under construction or being planned (over 100 MW) [9]

Figure 11:Site map for mega solar projects greater than 100 MW that are under construction or being planned [9]


1)     MODULE:

  • NSP (350W/355W/360W)

Neo Solar Power is a solar module of Mitsubishi Electric i.e. a Japanese company. It contains 72 cell monocrystalline module for commercial and industrial purposes with an efficiency of around 18.6%. the module is an ammonia resistant with an excellent low light performance of 96.5% and with a maximum system voltage of 1,000V. The company offer 10-year material and workmanship warranty and 25-years linear power output warranty. [13]

  • KT265 / KK270

The manufacture of this module is Kyocera which is the developing and manufacturing company for over 40 years. It contains polycrystalline cell of dimension (156 mm x 156 mm) and delivers power of 265 to 270 Wp. This module is pre-assembled with bypass diodes, and connector for smoother module assembly. Moreover, the company offers 10-year product warranty, 25-year performance guarantee (for 10 years at 90%, for 25-years at 80%) and lastly 25 years linear performance warranty. [14]

  • ND-250QCS

This sharp 250-watt polycrystalline solar module is designed for the commercial purposes with USA as their manufacturers with an open circuit voltage of 38.3V and short circuit current of 8.90A. the dimension of the module is 64.60×39.10×1.80inches with module efficiency of 15.5%. The company/manufacturer offers 25-years warranty on power output. [15]


Some of the PV invertors that japan uses are as under:

  • SANUPS P83E:

This PV inverter is only used in Japan, having 100kW power conditioner along with a power conversion efficiency of about 95%. It is available in 2 types i.e. for grid connection and off-grid connection and accepts a wide range of input voltages. It can take DC input of 240v up to 600V and as it is an inverter it can output around 202V three-phase voltage with an output power of 100kW. [16]

  • Yukimura-36k-JP

Sengoku solar Co., Ltd is the manufacturer of this company, situated in Japan with a power range of 36kW. It can take maximum DC voltage of 1000V and current of 18A and give AC output of 480V. the dimension of the inverter are 700x530x338mm and offer product warranty of 20years. [17]

  • GD300NA-112

This inverter is manufactured by the Japanese company (DIAsine), the inverter takes in DC voltage of 12V and provide AC output voltage range of 100 to 120V. It can provide up to 0.36kW of AC power at a frequency of 50 to 60Haz and a distortion of less than 3% and an efficiency of 90%. The dimension of this invertor is 44×146.5x234mm, with a product warranty of 1 years. [18]



System that has installment price below $4.10/W will receive $0.20/W, whereas system whose installments costs ranges between $4.10/W and $5.00/W have a low subsidy of $0.15/W. system having selling price above $5.00/W is not eligible for any subsidiary. [19]


– FIT of $0.40/kWh is provided if the power generation is surplus.

– Return of 3.2% annually is said to be returned to the system owners after a pay back period of 10 years. [19]


-          Japanese government is attracting people to set PV plant by providing 10 years Japanese government bond. [19]


Currently, the PV sectors are facing 3 major challenges: 1) Rapid increasing cost burden 2) Grid constraints 3) unreasonable land use regulations.

Rapid increasing cost burden is unnecessary regulation that will make people think whether to install PV system or not as they are getting hardly any profit with the increase in the investment cost.

Figure 13:Average unit cost of electricity in electric utilities [12]

The second main obstacle is the regulation on the land i.e. it is the time-consuming process, as it requires several steps to work on the desired land and set up the PV system there. For example, if we must convert an agricultural land into a PV generation plant we need a lot of proper paperwork. In one of the websites it was stated “Generally, it takes a large amount of time to achieve deregulation because it requires coordination among many entities to confirm compliance with existing laws and ordinances, to coordinate stakeholders, to conduct safety checks, to work with many different ministers and agencies, and more. To effectively deregulate, persistent efforts must be made to clarify issues under current regulations, and continued appeals must be directed to concerned parties. It is therefore important for the Japanese PV industry to work hard to identify irrational regulations by means of industrial associations”. [6]

The other issue is the grid contains as there are no proper rules for using interconnectors and no proper change purchase from the retailers to TSOs.

Figure 14:Grid constraints [12]



The FIT program has brought about a significant change in the expansion of PV system installations in Japan. Advances by PV system integrators, PV-utilizing industries, and users are enabling downstream sectors of the PV industry to flourish, broadening the scope of the PV business. The national targets are to increase PV power generation to ten times its 2008 level, to 14 GW, by FY 2020 and to 40 times the 2008 level, or to an estimated 53 GW, by 2030. In parallel with PV deployment in Japan, the Japanese PV industry will also able to contribute to the deployment of PV in foreign countries. Japan’s PV industry must enhance its global competitiveness by continuing to shift its business structure, based on the technologies, engineering, and services that support the life cycle of PV systems. [6]

Considering all the statistics of the future, I think Japan has a growing PV market and there are hopes that it becomes leading in the PV generation.

Figure 15:Target PV capacity in Japan. [6]




[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan

[2] https://www.globallegalinsights.com/practice-areas/energy-laws-and-regulations/japan

[3] http://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/en/category/brochures/pdf/japan_energy_2017.pdf

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Japan

[5] https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Japan-s-gas-electricity-prices-to-rise-again-in-May

[6] http://web.mit.edu/mission/www/m2018/pdfs/japan/solar.pdf

[7] https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy18osti/71493.pdf

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_in_Japan

[9] https://www.asiabiomass.jp/english/topics/1402_06.html#fig1

[10] https://www.pv-magazine.com/2018/03/27/kyocera-jv-inaugurates-13-7-mw-floating-pv-plant-in-japan/

[11] https://www.pv-magazine.com/2018/01/30/kyocera-completes-large-scale-and-floating-pv-projects-in-japan/

[12] https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/Session%201-5.%20Keiji%20Kimura_REI.pdf

[13] https://www.mitsubishielectricsolar.com/products/commercial/solar-modules

[14] http://www.kyocerasolar.eu/index/products.html

[15] https://www.solarelectricsupply.com/solar-panels/sharp/sharp-nd-250qcs-solar-panels

[16] https://www.sanyodenki.com/contents/product_information/list_01.html

[17] https://www.enfsolar.com/pv/inverter-datasheet/9547

[18] https://www.enfsolar.com/pv/inverter-datasheet/10727

[19] https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy14osti/60419.pdf


Figure 1:Comprehensive Energy Statistics [3]

Figure 2:Japan’s Energy 2017 [3]

Figure 3:Electricity Rate Trend [3]

Figure 4:Market segments of installed PV systems in 2011 [6]

Figure 5:Installed capacity of PV system in Japan [6]

Figure 6:Comparison of the Renewable Energy Ratio in the Generated Electric Power Amount

Figure 7:Kagoshima Nanatsujima Mega-Solar Power Plant (provided by Kyocera Corporation) [9]

Figure 8:he 13.7MW floating solar PV plant on the Yamakura Dam reservoir [10]

Figure 9:Kyocera’s 21.1 MW solar PV plant in Japan’s Hagi City [11]

Figure 10: Mega solar power plants under construction or being planned (over 100 MW) [9]

Figure 11:Site map for mega solar projects greater than 100 MW that are under construction or being planned [9]

Figure 12: Monocrystalline NSP [13]

Figure 13:Average unit cost of electricity in electric utilities [12]

Figure 14:Grid constraints [12]

Figure 15:Target PV capacity in Japan. [6]


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