The prefectural governments of Japan are backing solar power in a big way, fueling the push towards renewable energy sources. 17 prefectures across the nation either have a solar power facility, or are planning to build one – these local governments represent one-third of all prefectural governments in Japan. The solar power plants they are currently maintaining or planning to build will at least capable of generating at the very least 1,000 kilowatts (equal to 1 megawatt) of electricity, and in some cases, some prefectural governments are planning more than one facility.
As a direct result of this, the solar power generated all across Japan under local government setups will amount to around 100,000 kilowatts in total, including at sites already in production. The electricity generated in these sites will be sold to electric power companies under the feed-in tariff system, a unique incentive program that offers higher rates for energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind, or hydroelectric. So what is the tangible effect of 100,000 kilowatts of energy produced from a renewable source? That impressive figure is enough to supply monthly thermal energy needs of around 30,000 households. This total even exceeds 70,000 kilowatts of electricity generated by commercially owned solar power plants.
Local governments have planned to use land that is currently idle and not generating any income for the local government to build the solar plants, the idea being to use of such land effectively and use the profits to fund local services. Hyogo Prefecture actually plans to build more than one solar power facility, generating a huge total of 35,000 kilowatts of electricity. Ibaraki Prefecture is also scheduled to build a solar power facility capable of generating 2,000 kilowatts of electricity in 2013, which is expected to generate 80 million yen (around 800,000 US dollars) in revenue annually, the profits more than enough to fund the maintenance of the solar facility.
The unique feed-in tariff system was launched July last year to encourage investments towards natural energy resources. Electricity generated by renewable natural energy resources is sold to electric power companies at a much higher rate. The downside to this is that the big utility companies usually pass along the cost to ordinary households. Officials in Hiroshima Prefecture have pointed out this unfair system, and so they are planning to give back part of the cost in subsidies for household energy-saving equipment.