April 10, 2012 / 9:51 AM / 8 years ago

Kyocera, IHI, Mizuho to build Japan's biggest solar plant

TOKYO, April 10 (Reuters) - Electronics firm Kyocera Corp , heavy machinery maker IHI Corp and Mizuho Corporate Bank said on Tuesday they have agreed to launch Japan’s biggest solar power project at a cost of $307 million.

Their 70-megawatt plant will generate about 79,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year, enough for about 22,000 households, they said.

Solar capacity in Japan has risen to more than 3,500 megawatts, helped by government subsidies for solar panels on homes, though it meets less than 1 percent of the nation’s power demand and the capacity is less than a quarter that of Germany.

A special-purpose company (SPC) will be set up to build and run the new plant, with construction starting in July in Kagoshima city on the southern island of Kyushu.

Kyushu Electric Power Co is expected to buy the electricity generated. Four more Japanese companies have agreed to join in the project as shareholders of the SPC.

Interest in alternative energy has risen in Japan since the radiation crisis triggered by the destruction of Fukushima nuclear power plant in last year’s earthquake and tsunami.

All but one of the nation’s 54 reactors are shuttered, with the government struggling to persuade a wary public that it is safe to restart them.

Further elements of the project, including a start date for commercial operation, will be decided after the government sets prices for a subsidy scheme for renewable energy sources that is scheduled for launch on July 1.

“The capacity or overall cost may be revised, depending on the pricing under the new government scheme,” said a spokeswoman at Kyocera, which is supplying the solar modules and will be the biggest shareholder of the SPC.

A government panel is holding discussions to decide how much utilities will have to pay to renewable power suppliers in a feed-in tariff scheme, with the costs to be passed on to electricity users.

The panel is expected to come up with recommendations as early as May on how much solar, wind and other renewable suppliers can charge utilities per kilowatt hour. ($1 = 81.3900 Japanese yen) (Editing by Aaron Sheldrick and Michael Watson)

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