In recent years, the effects of climate change, such as rising temperature and increasing torrential rains, have been observed in many places. Since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, the world has been accelerating its development of coping methods to these effects. Among them, renewable energies such as solar, geothermal and wind power are expected to be used as clean energy sources that do not emit greenhouse gases like CO2. However, Japan's current renewable energy ratio is about 16% (as of fiscal 2017), which is still low compared to other countries, namely Germany and the U.K.*¹ While there are various issues to be addressed in promoting the use of renewable energies, solar power generation, in particular, requires the provision of a sufficient amount of space for photovoltaic panels.
In this episode, we introduce the efforts of Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. and OMRON Field Engineering Co., Ltd. (OFE) in this field.
Murata Manufacturing is a company that has been working to increase the amount of renewable energy consumed in its business activities and to reduce regional CO2 emissions, as part of the efforts to strengthen its climate change countermeasures.
Committed to these efforts, the company has been installing solar power generation systems at its domestic facilities since around 2012. And in fiscal 2017, they planned to do so at Okayama Murata Manufacturing Co., Ltd. (a subsidiary that manufactures ceramic raw materials, multilayer devices and inductors), however the location for installing the system was an issue.
In response, Murata Manufacturing approached OFE, which had a longstanding relationship with the company through participation in an energy conservation seminar organized by OFE.
OFE, which decided to participate in this project, first focused on a company-owned parking lot for 1,200 vehicles. The target of the project, Okayama Murata Manufacturing, is located on the outskirts of the city and most employees commute to work in their own cars. Utilizing this parking lot will enable the company to secure a large area with good sunshine conditions and generate a large amount of renewable energy. Furthermore, by utilizing carport-type design (a simple garage consisting of a roof and pillars), the cars can be shaded from the sun in the summer and the rise in room temperature inside them can be reduced.
However, a carport photovoltaic system requires the height of the mount to be secured and more consideration must be given to safety, which inevitably increases the investment. To install this system, OFE proposed the use of double-sided panels that can generate electricity using light from the backside of the system as well as the frontside. The amount of power generated from the same footprint can be increased by generating power from the backside of the panels, which would normally be dead space. Moreover, by combining the highly efficient solar panels with OMRON's proprietary solar power generation maintenance service called SOLAMONI*², this system is able to prevent the sudden stoppage of power generation due to malfunction and maintain and maximize power generation for a long time after installation.
A representative from Murata Manufacturing says, "The system is a great help to us. The panels proposed by OFE are double-sided, using not only the sunlight from above, but also the reflected light from below, so the power generation efficiency is extremely high. At first, we thought the amount of power generated on the back side would be minimal, but the carport style panels are installed with sufficient height, so they are generating more power than we expected.
Yasuo Imoto of OFE's EM Engineering SE Department, who was in charge of the project, says, "The installment of a solar power generation system does not end with the installation of the hardware. Since they are large outdoor facilities, maintenance is often another hurdle to the project. OMRON has been maintaining various social infrastructures for more than 40 years and helping to solve such issues through IT. In addition to design and construction of those facilities, we hope to contribute to the spread of renewable energy in society by providing SOLAMONI".
The system generates enough electricity to power more than 600 households in a year and reduces 1,698 tons of CO2 emissions. As a best practice in Japan, where places for solar power systems installation are limited, Okayama Murata Manufacturing plans to expand its solar power system to 550 more parking spaces and increase its power generation capacity by approximately 1.5 times by 2021.
OMRON will continue to promote the introduction of renewable energies and contribute to realization of a sustainable society.