The feel-good news about renewable energy never ceases. A 1.85 megawatt solar farm in Japan’s Wakayama prefecture will donate all profits to local non-profit organizations, Kyocera recently announced. The so-called “social contribution mega power plant project” — a partnership between Kyocera and Ryukoku University — is expected to cost about $8 million and be up and running in July 2013.
As Japan bounces back from the devastating 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster, discussion of generating cleaner, safer electricity from offshore wind farms and solar projects (instead of restarting nuclear plants) has been contentious. In the two years since the disaster, protests urging political leaders to totally abandon nuclear power and numerous successful wind and solar projects have tipped the scales of Japanese public opinion towards increasing electricity generated by renewable resources.
Japan’s generous feed-in-tariffs, which require utilities companies to pay 53 cents a kilowatt hour for electricity generated by solar panels, have even attracted foreign photovoltaic makers like Spain’s Gestamp Solar, supporting the CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets’ estimation that Japan could have 17.3 gigwatts of solar power by 2014.
This social contribution solar project being built by Kyocera and Ryukoku University will be in the southeastern city of Inami, and will be operated by Plus Social Co. and The Trans Value Trust Company. The provisionally titled Ryukuko Solar Park will consist of about 7,500 Kyocera solar panels that will generate about 1.9 million kilowatt-hours per year. After operating costs are accounted for, the remaining profits will be donated in the Wakayama prefecture and Kyoto areas where the solar plants will be installed.
In today’s world of fat-cat CEOs padding their own big bonuses, the Ryukoku Solar Park concept of socially responsible investing is novel… and hopefully contagious.