Japanese Experiment Gauges How Solar And Crops Can Coexist

Solar Frontier, a Japan-based manufacturer of copper, indium and selenium (CIS) solar modules, has provided its panels for a “solar sharing” experiment on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture, Japan.

“Solar sharing” in Japan refers to the practice of using the same plot of land to simultaneously grow crops and generate solar power. In such cases, solar panels are installed high above the crops and spaced farther apart than usual, enabling sufficient sunlight to pass through and farmers to work below. Solar Frontier says this business model has been gradually spreading across Japan, helping farmers earn additional income by selling electricity.

Advancing this experiment is the University of Tokyo’s IR3S (Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science). It aims to evaluate the potential economic impact of solar sharing on Sado Island, where the population is both declining and aging. It is doing so as part of a broader project that looks at using renewable energy and maximizing natural resources to achieve a low-carbon society and help revitalize communities.

Solar Frontier has provided 10 kW of its Solacis neo CIS solar panels for the experiment. The panels have been installed facing south at a low inclination angle of 13.5 degrees and are 2 meters high, enabling the farmer to tend to his crop. In this particular case, the experiment has started with a round of broccoli, and it will be followed by a range of seasonal vegetables as the year progresses. As a result, the test will provide data on light-shielding rates and crop yield for the Washizaki district, an area with relatively difficult farming conditions.

The installation and crops are being managed by the Association for Developing Sado Starting from Washizaki. Taro Honma, president of the association, is the producer of Umi no Kome (Rice of the Sea), a brand of rice that won the Sushi Rice Special Award at the Sushi Rice Contest International Tournament in 2015. He is also a practitioner of a completely organic farming method that helps protect the Japanese crested ibis, a rare species of bird in the region.

Solar Frontier says it will continue to focus on collaborating with industry, academia and government, utilizing its CIS thin-film modules to promote distributed energy generation initiatives rooted in local regions.


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