A Town In Japan With The Longest Hours Of Sunlight Is Covered With Solar Panels To Conserve Energy | FRIDAY DIGITAL

A Town In Japan With The Longest Hours Of Sunlight Is Covered With Solar Panels To Conserve Energy

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A scene spreading across Kai City, Yamanashi Prefecture. Solar panels are laid on the steep slope of the mountain surface.It’s eerie, Because such big panels shining so brightly in the mountains.

The elderly man sighed as he looked up at the mountain behind his house. Hokuto City in Yamanashi Prefecture. It was early June when my cameraman and I visited this richly natural area, which is surrounded by Mount Yatsugatake and Mount Kaikomagatake, a representative of the Southern Alps. The city, which is said to have the longest hours of sunlight in Japan, is also known as one of the “sacred places” for solar power generation facilities.


This summer and winter, the supply and demand of electricity will be extremely severe.

On June 7,  After the review meeting on electricity supply and demand held at the Prime Minister’s official residence, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno asked households and businesses to conserve electricity starting July 1. This is the first time in seven years that the government has requested power saving.

The government issued its first “Power Tightness Warning” on June 27, as the nation was already experiencing extremely hot days. In the Kanto region, where temperatures remain the highest ever recorded in June, the government continues to issue a broad call for power conservation.

According to the government’s explanation, the supply-demand balance for electricity from July onward is expected to become tight between 5 pm and 8 pm, while for the daytime, the supply-demand balance is easing due to the growing introduction of solar power generation.

According to data compiled by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy last December, Japan’s solar power generation capacity ranks third largest in the world after China and the United States. That is how widespread solar power generation is in Japan. Even today, large-scale solar power generation facilities, known as mega solar power plants, are being built all over Japan.


However, one cannot be complacent about the unchecked spread of solar power throughout the country.

There is no end to the problems associated with solar power generation in many parts of Japan, including accidents involving collapsed buildings caused by torrential rains, destruction of the landscape and environment, soil pollution, and illegal dumping of used solar panels. The problems do not stop there.

A manager involved in the solar power generation business in Tokyo said, “The solar power generation business is a world where shady dealers and brokers can easily get into the business, from site selection and securing land to buying and selling power generation equipment. There are cases where the operator of a power plant is later found to be a paper company and cannot be contacted when something goes wrong, or where the operator suddenly goes bankrupt and leaves the power plant unattended. Before long, the power plant may even be resold and become foreign capital. Because of the investment aspect of the solar business, there are many stories of scams that deceive people about the solar business.”

Solar panels are laid out on both sides of the Hokuto Yatsugatake Parkway, a prefectural road.Even as these problems continue to mount, the debate over solar power generation is becoming more and more contentious, as Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike is considering enacting an amendment to an ordinance requiring the installation of solar panels on new houses.

The nationwide rush to build solar power plants began in 2012 with the start of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) system for electricity, which was introduced by the government to promote renewable energy. Yamanashi Prefecture also offers favorable conditions for solar power generation, with the second fewest number of rainy days per year in Japan, in addition to long hours of sunlight.

“When I visited Hokuto City in Yamanashi Prefecture, which is said to have ‘the longest hours of sunlight in Japan,’ the first thing that caught my eye was the prefectural road Hokuto Yatsugatake Kogen Line, located just off the Nagasaka Interchange on the Chuo Expressway. The black solar panels lined up on both sides of the road, emitting a strong reflected light, caught the eyes of drivers as they drove by. In fact, the operator of this power plant is not a local company or individual, but a pachinko-related company headquartered in Meguro-ku, Tokyo.”

“Most of the power generation facilities are outside the prefecture,” he said. “Even if they build a big power plant like that, it won’t lower the electricity bills of the residents in this area.”

This is the opinion of a man who runs a farm in the city. He was right. We saw solar power plants owned by businesses outside the prefecture in various parts of the city.

For example, in Takane Town, Hokuto City, where vast fields are spread out, solar panels were laid out to surround a large cemetery. The facility, surrounded by a wire fence, was equipped with security cameras, creating a somber atmosphere. A sign attached to the fence indicated that the operator was a company from Fukui Prefecture.

(Continued in Part 2)

Takane Town, Hokuto City. A strange scene of towering mountains, a huge cemetery, and solar panels.
Also in Takane Town, Hokuto City. The cemetery is surrounded by solar panels.
  • Interview and text by Hironori Jinno (nonfiction) Hironori Jinno (Nonfiction writer) Photo by Soichiro Koriyama

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