Pioneering, linking, and supporting
the future of agriculture and energy
Address challenges facing Japanese agriculture and energy problems at once
Agrivoltaics is a promising solution that can tackle both of these challenges. Farmers can earn a stable income from power generation while protecting their farmland. They can revive their communities without sacrificing the environment. Through the expansion of viral local communities with agrivoltaics, Japan can chart a new path toward greater adoption of renewable energy.
What is Agrivoltaics?
It’s important to note that each plant species has a maximum light threshold, and excessive light can be harmful to their growth. However, most commonly grown vegetables are not negatively impacted by agrivoltaics. In fact, shading can even improve the growing conditions for many of them.
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What is IRISS?
Integrated Research Institute for Solar Sharing (IRISS) was established in 2022 to promote the adoption of agrivoltaics as an effective solution to the pressing issue of global warming.
The impact of global warming, caused by human activities, has put humanity under pressure to respond. The primary contributor to global warming is the widespread use of fossil fuels, and a transition to a zero-carbon society is necessary to prevent further damage to our planet. While the causes and solutions are well-known, implementing them remains a challenging task. The international goal of achieving zero carbon by 2050 is ambitious, but many are concerned that it may take up to 30 years to accomplish this objective.
Our comfortable lives are sustained by extensive energy consumption, which heavily relies on fossil fuels, and transitioning from fossil fuels may require some changes to our current, comfortable way of life. In order to achieve zero carbon emissions while maintaining our current way of life, we must expedite the transition from fossil fuels to renewables as much as possible.
Research indicates that the amount of renewable energy available is more than sufficient, and the responsibility lies with us to transition to its use. Although the transition may entail costs–therefore cause some pain–, it is crucial to utilize renewable energy sources in a cost-effective and efficient manner. In Japan, solar power is currently the most affordable and widely available source of renewable energy, with wind power as a close second. These two sources alone have the potential to replace all the energy currently consumed.
First, solar power (for commercial use), which is the most economical, should be increased. However, the authorized amount of solar power generation under Japan’s feed-in tariff (FIT) system has decreased in recent years. The amount was more than 10,000 MW per year from FY2012 to FY2014, when the system started, but it declined to an average of 3,500 MW from FY2015 to FY2019, and it is expected to drop further to 894 MW in FY2020. Preliminary estimates for FY2021 suggest an increase of approximately 700 MW, but the level remains lower than before despite a surge of applications prior to the transition to the FIP system from FY2022.
One of the reasons for this decline is the lack of land suitable for installation, given that solar power generation requires a large area. This is where agrivoltaics presents an innovative solution. Japan has 4.4 million hectares of farmland, and if agrivoltaics systems were installed on 30% of this land, it would be sufficient to provide Japan’s entire energy needs while still maintaining agriculture. This approach would allow for a dual utilization of farmland and promote a new type of agriculture with high profit margins. Agrivoltaics is a wonderful technology that has the potential to promote energy self-sufficiency, tackle the issue of global warming, and simultaneously revitalize the agricultural sector.
Currently, however, agrivoltaics still remains an uncommon practice. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), there were 3,474 permits for agrivoltaics (solar sharing) as of March 2021. While this is a 30% increase from the previous year, it pales in comparison to the number of commercial solar installations during the same period, which exceeded 650,000. It is clear that this is hardly a widespread practice. The low adoption rate can be attributed to various factors such as limitations on agricultural land use, difficulties in obtaining financing, the aging and decline of agriculture, concerns about the impact on farming operations, and many others.
The Integrated Research Institute for Solar Sharing is committed to addressing these challenges and creating a society where agrivoltaics can be implemented with peace of mind.
What you can do with SSF
With these tools, SSF provides a range of essential support, research, and consulting services for agrivoltaics installations.
Sharing information on best practices across Japan SSF collects and shares information on successful agrivoltaics practices and innovative initiatives from various regions across Japan.
Representative Directors of IRISS
While running an IT company, Gohara founded an agricultural corporation where he practices organic farming of paddy rice and chickens fed with organic feed. Immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear power plant accident, he established an NPO, Ueda Citizen’s Energy, and launched a citizen-funded joint project called “Ainori-kun,” which promotes solar power generation system installation. This project has collected a total of over 170 million yen in investment from citizens and has installed a total of 0.8 MW of equipment across dozens of locations. In 2013, he began developing a sun-tracking agrivoltaics frame and received a subsidy from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2014 to install a demonstration facility. The first unit was installed in 2016. In 2018, the project was featured in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries’ guideline booklet for agrivoltaics installation as an outstanding example. Since then, he has installed more than 10 agrivoltaics power generation facilities. Currently serving as a board member of NPO Ueda Citizen’s Energy and General Incorporated Association Renewable Energy Shinshu-net, he is actively working to promote organic farming and agrivoltaics and to achieve zero carbon.
After spending two decades raising awareness about environmental issues by distributing organic agricultural products and eco-friendly goods, Higashi shifted his focus to promoting renewable energy in 2011. Currently, he is involved in various businesses related to agrivoltaics, including his own power plant business using agrivoltaics (a total of approx. 6.1MW), an EPC business that specializes in agrivoltaics, development of specialized parts for agrivoltaics. In addition, he engages in lecturing and other promotional activities related to the environment in general. In May 2021, he established a new company called “TERRA Co., Ltd.” to promote and build agrivoltaics systems with minimal environmental impact for both domestic and international markets. In December 2021, he was awarded the Grand Prize in the “Advanced Introduction and Mitigation Category of the Minister of the Environment’s Commendation” for Citizen Energy Chiba Co., Ltd.
- Representative Director of Citizen Energy Chiba Co., Ltd. (established on July 2, 2014)
- Representative Director of TERRA Co., Ltd. (established on May 13, 2021)
- Representative Director of Integrated Research Institute for Solar Sharing, Inc. (established on July 7, 2022)
- Director of Sosa Ohisama Fields (corporation qualified to own cropland) (established on January 18, 2021)
- Director, Re Co., Ltd.
- Executive Officer of Three Little Birds Limited Liability Company (corporation qualified to own cropland)
- Director/Secretary General of Solar Sharing Promotion Alliance (General Incorporated Association)
After working for a major food company, Nishi came across agrivoltaics in Sosa City, Chiba Prefecture when he was preparing to start a business related to food and agriculture. Fascinated by the potential of agrivoltaics in terms of the concept of regeneration and circulation in addition to food and agriculture, he founded Agritree Co., Ltd. in 2018 to provide consulting, EPC, and O&M services for agrivoltaics projects. As the representative director of Agritree, he has overseen the construction of over 3.2MW of agrivoltaics system installations. He has experience in building a wide range of business schemes partnering with agricultural corporations, large companies, and municipalities, and also has overseen a wide variety of facilities, including greenhouse agrivoltaics projects. Additionally, he has conducted feasibility studies on agrivoltaics in Brazil and Vietnam, and is actively working to develop businesses overseas. In 2019, he established a company called Organic Village LLC in collaboration with local businesses in Shimonoseki City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Serving as Functional Manager of Organic Village LLC, he has been actively working to create a Circular and Ecological Economy with a focus on organic agriculture, tourism, and renewable energy.
|Integrated Research Institute for Solar Sharing, Inc.
|16-16 Sanei-cho, Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 160-0008, Japan
|Ryoichi Gohara, Mitsuhiro Higashi, Koji Nishi
|30 million yen
|Promotion of agrivoltaics through providing DX systems for farmers, consulting services, conducting research etc.