Green Energy Park May Be Answer to Power Supply


Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series looking at Panasonic and its ecological strategies and technological developments.

By E.Q. Lam
November 16, 2011

Incorporating the strengths of SANYO into Panasonic undoubtedly puts the latter company closer to achieving its quest to be the leading green electronics company by its 100th anniversary in 2018. Panasonic Group recently gained full control of SANYO Electric, thereby acquiring SANYO’s technology in solar and battery power systems.

Interestingly, in 1918 Konosuke Matsushita started what would become Panasonic with his wife and brother-in-law, Toshio Iue, who later set off on his own and founded SANYO. Today, the two companies are back in the same fold again.

Panasonic made SANYO and another company, Panasonic Electric Works, subsidiaries in April and is undergoing group-wide reorganization. In the past couple of years, Panasonic’s operating profit and net sales have dipped (both down about 15 percent from 2008 to 2009), and the company posted losses in 2009 and 2010. But the 2011 annual report shows that Panasonic is returning to black. The shutdown of nearly all of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors (which accounts for about a third of Japan’s energy resources) after the March 11 earthquake has helped to draw greater consumer and government interest in Panasonic’s energy solutions. And the consumer-electronics giant is embracing comprehensive green technology solutions as part of its new growth strategy.

Residential solar panels make up about a third of Panasonic's sales in Japan but only a slight amount in the United States. SANYO has a PVC production facility in Oregon. (By E.Q. Lam)

SANYO adds to Panasonic’s wide-ranging technology with the latest developments in solar panels, including bifacial photovoltaic modules with HIT technology that can be mounted vertically instead of lying flat on a roof, so that sunlight hits both sides of the panels. Panasonic also acquired SANYO’s Solar Ark facility in Gifu Prefecture, Japan—a gallery, museum, lab, and community center of sorts.

But one of the most exciting acquisitions is Kasai Green Energy Park, a massive testing site for large-scale, renewable power storage systems located near Osaka. “This is Panasonic’s answer to how our group will supply power,” says Fumitoshi Terashima, general manager of SANYO’s Smart Energy Systems Division. “After various tests, we set up this facility to develop the best products—safest, low cost, long life span—to meet our customer demand.”

HIT bifacial PVC modules are installed on the façade of the administration building. Exactly 5,200 solar panels line the entire Park facility. (By E.Q. Lam)

The year-old Park generates, saves, and stores all of its power from a mega-solar power system (for daytime) and the world’s largest, commercial lithium-ion (li-ion) rechargeable battery power system (for night-time). The smart energy system can cut energy costs significantly; for example, in Japan the daytime energy cost is five times that of the night-time rate. The facility features a one-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic (PVC) system and 1.5 megawatt hours (MWh) and can produce 1,060 kilowatts (kW) annually. That’s enough power for 330 standard households in Japan—or, as facility tour guide Motoko Scott puts it, enough power to drive an electric vehicle to Spain. The battery system is designed to last at least 10 years using the same rechargeable batteries.

As part of the facility’s energy management system, eight 42-inch screens are located at the main entrance to the administration building, displaying real-time visual information on energy usage throughout the Park—and translating the numbers into more meaningful quantities, such as the equivalent number of trees saved. The company combines technology with information to instill in its employees a green mindset, which Panasonic hopes transfers into eco-conscious behavior at home and elsewhere.

SANYO concluded that li-ion batteries as ideal in comparison to lead-acid and sodium-sulphur (NaS) batteries, taking into account size, weight, lifespan, safety, and cost. The batteries have a charge/discharge efficiency of 98 percent, compared to 90 percent for NaS and 85 percent for lead-acid batteries, Terashima points out.

The li-ion power storage system is scalable for homes, schools and other buildings, and industrial use. “We can arrange or make this system from small one to large one. That’s unique about this system,” Terashima says.

Although the Kasai Green Energy Park facility has strict security, Panasonic opened its doors for a press tour of the world’s largest use of solar and lithium-ion battery power: 

For related articles, see:
Novel Japanese Recycling Plant
Technology for Smart Homes, Smart Cities
Double Energy Savings With DIY Tips and Technology
Panasonic Makes Eco Innovation Central Focus
Exclusive Interview With Panasonic Vice President

Travel and accommodations provided by Panasonic Corporation.

Check out more articles by E.Q. Lam.

© 2011 SCGH, LLC.

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