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Japan starts building the world’s largest floating solar farm

The Fukushima disaster prompted the shutdown of all of Japan’s nuclear power stations, with only one having since come back online.

The reliance on expensive imported energy in the last few years, and the seemingly endless wait for the completion of safety checks that may or may not see those nuclear plants return to operation, has encouraged local tech firms like Kyocera to ramp up efforts to build renewable energy solutions such as solar farms to help take care of the country’s future energy needs.

Trouble is, with much of Japan’s land either mountainous or populated, finding the space to build these solar farms has proved challenging.

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Kyocera’s answer has been to target “unused” spaces like reservoirs. For its latest grand project, the company has partnered with Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation to build what it claims will become the largest floating solar farm in the world in terms of power produced.

Situated about 50 miles from Tokyo and scheduled for launch in 2018, the facility will dwarf the current largest floating solar farm (also built by Kyocera), using five times more solar panels and covering around seven times the space.

Koycera recently started work on constructing the facility using just over 50,000 solar panels that’ll cover a freshwater surface area of about 180,000 square meters.

Related: Kyocera is building solar farms on abandoned golf courses, too

“The project will generate an estimated 16,170 megawatt hours (MWh) per year, enough electricity to power approximately 4,970 typical households,” Kyocera says on its website, noting its equivalence to “19,000 barrels of oil consumed.”

And putting the panels on water doesn’t just solve the issue of a lack of space, as the water’s cooling effect is also believed to increase the panels’ energy efficiency by at least 10 percent compared to those on land. They even help to reduce evaporation during hot summers, meaning there’s more water to go around, an important factor that boosts floating solar farms’ green credentials still further.