Softbank denies PV backtrack

Japanese telecoms giant Softbank has denied it is reconsidering planned solar installations on the northern island of Hokkaido because the local utility might not accept its applications to connect to the regional grid.

Japanese-language news outlets said the company, which develops PV projects through its renewable-energy unit, SB Energy, would reconsider its planned installations in Abira, near the city of Tomakomai, and Yakumo, located north of the port of Hakodate.

“That’s not true,” Softbank spokesman Kenichi Yuasa tells Recharge, while conceding that problems could arise in the future.

Yuasa says Softbank is working on a 111MW installation in the town of Abira and a 2.7MW project in the town of Shiraoi, also near Tomakomai. However, the company has not started building them yet.

He adds that regional utility Hokkaido Electric Power has already approved those sites for connection to the grid.

The company has yet to finalise its plans in the town of Yakumo, he says.

Japan needs to deal with problems related to grid access on Hokkaido so it can transmit electricity to other parts of the nation.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has allocated ¥25bn ($244mn) to subsidise the expansion of the Hokkaido grid this year, primarily to encourage the future development of wind farms. Construction is expected to begin in the 2014 financial year.

“We haven’t had any trouble yet, but Hokkaido Electric has said that they can’t accept much more electricity,” Yuasa says. He admits: “In the future, we’ll have problems.”

In April, METI announced plans to install a large storage system at a Hokkaido Electric substation to regulate the transmission of solar-generated power.

The 60MWh battery bank will supposedly be the biggest of its kind in the world once completed.