Clean Power

Published on September 11th, 2017 | by The Beam

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Japan’s “Do It Ourselves” Model For Community Power

September 11th, 2017 by  

By Shota Furuya, Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP)

Often, community power innovation arises from adversity. Integrating numerous ideas, crafts and networks, a community solar startup in Tokyo leads the megacities’ community roof-top solar with an innovative participatory installation model.

DiO (Do it Ourselves)

In September 2016, a Tokyo-based community solar startup, Tama Empower, released a new participatory installation model for rooftop solar called ‘DiO (Do it Ourselves)’. This model provides customers not only with electricity from PV, but also a deep understanding and a tangible feeling of community ownership of PV.

The scheme of DiO consists of four main pillars:

  1. Building owner’s and tenant’s participation in installation
  2. Cost reduction through process breakdown and role sharing
  3. Carefully selected solar PV equipment
  4. Institutional operation and maintenance (O&M) support

Professional construction builders serve as the instructors and the participants learn how to build up mounting parts and how to set PV panels on them.

  1. Building owner’s and tenant’s participation in installation

In DiO, customers (mostly owners and tenants of commercial buildings, public buildings or private apartment buildings) participate in a training session. Tama Empower gives a short lecture on the significance of renewable energy for the future and some background information on DiO. The professional construction builders then serve as the instructors and the participants learn how to build up mounting parts and how to set PV panels on them. Through this training session, building owners and tenants gain comprehensive knowledge of the solar PV equipment they are going to install. After this session, the customers will build up mounting parts and set PV panels on the roof of their own building thanks to the help of their instructors.

  1. Cost reduction through process demystification and role sharing

It is often noted that the cost of solar PV installation is very expensive in Japan. Referring to a research institution’s finding that the most expensive part of the installation is the construction cost, Tama Empower focused on reducing it. By breaking down the whole process of construction, the process was evaluated in three categories: (1) the processes workable by lay people; (2) the processes workable by people trained by the professionals; and (3) the processes workable only by the professionals. Through the standardization of these three categories in an efficient way, as well as sharing some parts with the participants, DiO were able to reduce the costs of the construction process.

  1. Carefully selected solar PV equipment

The solar PV equipment of DiO is carefully selected in order to meet both the durability requirements for the rooftop installation and the simplicity needed for the participatory installation. Specifically, those requirements are fulfilled with the combination of Krannich Solar’s module, K2 Systems’ D-Dome mounting system, and SMA’s inverter and remote monitoring system.

  1. Institutional O&M support

Operation and maintenance is an essential part of solar PV. DiO covers it institutionally under a partnership with professional construction builders and electrical engineers. One year after the installation, the construction builder will come again and inspect the system for free. From one year onward, the owner needs to check the system themselves, and Tama Empower provides the owner a self-inspection manual. In addition, DiO obliges owners to take out insurance.

Skillfully combining those technical and social pieces and integrating them as a comprehensive package, DiO opens up the further possibilities for the roof-top solar PV in urban areas and will increase the reliability of community roof-top solar projects.

Professional construction builders train the participants of the Tama Empower community.

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About the Author

The Beam Magazine is a quarterly print publication that takes a modern perspective on the energy transition. From Berlin we report about the people, companies and organizations that shape our sustainable energy future around the world. The team is headed by journalist Anne-Sophie Garrigou and designer Dimitris Gkikas. The Beam works with a network of experts and contributors to cover topics from technology to art, from policy to sustainability, from VCs to cleantech start ups. Our language is energy transition and that's spoken everywhere. The Beam is already being distributed in most countries in Europe, but also in Niger, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Japan, Chile and the United States. And this is just the beginning. So stay tuned for future development and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Medium.



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