American and Japanese Corporations Collaborate on Large Solar Project

Japan The Mekong

General Electric Co. (GE) and Virginia Solar Group have started the commercial operations of the 32-megawatt Pacifico Energy Kumenan Mega Solar Project in Okayama Prefecture, Japan. Currently one of the largest solar power plants in the prefecture and in Japan’s broader Chugoku region, the Kumenan Solar Project is producing enough electricity to power 11,000 Japanese households.

The procurement and construction of the project was carried out by Tokyo-based EPC Toyo Engineering Corporation and was completed one month ahead of schedule. The project was specially designed and constructed on mountainous terrain to leverage accessible slopes, with the aim of maximizing power output and cost efficiencies. The facility is selling the power it produces to Chugoku Electric Power Company, the local utility in the Chugoku area of Japan, through a 20-year power purchase agreement at a fixed tariff.

GE executives noted that the Kumenan Solar Project was GE’s first investment in Japan and will help the country meet its renewable energy targets. The project was also the first solar plant in Japan that GE and Virginia Solar Group have led to commercial operation. Together, these two firms have invested in two other projects in Japan, which are currently still under construction. The 42-megawatt Mimasaka Musashi plant and 96-megawatt Hosoe plant are scheduled to begin operating in late 2016 and early 2018, respectively.

In recent years, GE has expanded its presence in Asia by investing in renewable energy projects, with a particular focus on wind and solar power generation. GE, which has already invested $15 billion in research and development for renewable energy projects, now plans to add another $10 billion to its investments.

ASEAN countries are also a major part of GE’s renewable business in Asia. GE was one of the first American companies to enter Vietnam after the lifting of the US trade embargo in 1994. GE also joined the first wind farm project in the Mekong Delta province of Bac Lieu, supplying over 99 megawatts of power generation capacity in 2013. Following several successful partnerships, in May 2016, GE was chosen by Vietnam’s Industry and Trade Ministry as the US company to develop and provide 1,000 megawatts of wind power capacity for Vietnam by 2025, enough to power over 1.8 million households.

Sin Yan (Amy) Lau is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at American University.