Since the Fukushima disaster, Japan has focused on steering away from nuclear power and toward renewable energy generation, but an obstacle to that has been finding open land that can be used for solar or wind power because much of it is needed for agriculture.
The solution, of course, is to combine the two. A new solar project will see solar power generation mixed with mushroom farming. The project by Sustainergy and Hitachi Capital will have a capacity of 4,000 kW where cloud-eared mushrooms are grown underneath the panels because they require so little sunlight.
The project will be split between two farms in Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan and will yield 40 tons of mushrooms a year. The facilities should be completed and go online at the end of the month and will be the largest dual use project so far in the country.
Nikkei Asian Review reports, "The business model would strip away the hurdles farmers currently face when trying to enter commercial solar power generation. They would be able to secure enough electricity for their own needs and have a surplus from which to gain an additional source of income."
As younger generations in Japan move away from rural areas and into cities, farm land is left behind and abandoned. New projects like this could give these pieces of land a new life that provides clean energy, food and a source of income for the owners. The Ministry of Environment estimates that the unused farm land available for these types of dual use projects could generate 70,000 megawatts of solar power, or enough to power 20 million households.
This is not the first dual use renewable energy idea pursued in Japan. The country has also been building huge floating solar power plants over its reservoirs as a way to both generate clean energy and keep the reservoirs healthy and full.