Two seemingly unrelated developments are becoming intimately linked in the land of the rising sun: the closing down of golf courses and the emergence of large scale solar PV plants.
It started to dawn upon me that this might be a 'thing', since today and yesterday two very similar headlines popped up:
Takara Leben Developing 15MW Solar Plant on Former Golf Course
GE Financing 42-Megawatt Solar Project Atop Golf Course in Japan
Then I remembered seeing similar headlines back in June.
Abandoned Fukushima Golf Course to Turn Into Solar-Power Plant
Orix Begins 51MW Solar Farm on Former Golf Course in Japan
What's up with all these golf courses closing? And why are solar plants popping up on those sites? (OK, the one closing in Fukushima seems te speak for itself).
Are the Japanese done with golfing? According to LPGA (The Ladies' Professional Golf Association), Japan was still very much in love with golf in 2012.
The Japan Times had an even more detailed answer on the question why Japanese seem to love golf.
But if they love it so much, why does it seem like there are so many golf courses closing down? It puzzles me... PV-Tech simply blames it on the economy. That's always an answer...
Enough about golf though! The great thing about these golf courses closing down, is that large swathes of land, mostly flat or semi-artificially hilly, become available for redevelopment. In a land where finding the space for large scale solar projects is quite hard - so hard that they're even constructing artificial islands (like this one) and floating solar plants (like these) - this provides great opportunities.
From that perspective it isn't that surprising that when a golf course closes down in Japan, there will be a solar developer at the front of the line to claim the land. These projects can be built extremely fast and start generating income within a short period.
As a complete non-golf-enthousiast I can't say I'm sad to see these golf courses close down. In my opinion, the land is being put to much better use! When you're aiming to steal the gold medal from China and become the world's largest solar market, you need all the land you can get your hands on (and China has plenty).
One of our contacts in Japan has taken the time to elaborate on the subject and give some more answers regarding this amazing phenomenon!
Thank you very much Eduard! (to repay the favour, I'll just quickly mention that Eduard's company - NEXPV K.K. - is an international company based in Tokyo that specializes in getting foreign PV power plant developers started in the Japanese market)
It's a shame that it'll be a lot harder to put solar panels on all those abandoned skiing slopes
(unless of course they are facing the exact right direction, in which case you can save on racking systems). ;-)
So to finally answer the question: BOTH!
Japan is falling out of love with golf and is deeply enamoured with Solar!