Tokyo aims to install solar panels at over 2,000 facilities

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Only a few solar panels have been installed at this municipal housing in Higashi-Kurume, Tokyo.-

The Tokyo metropolitan government plans to install solar panels at more than 2,000 facilities it owns, including apartment buildings, police boxes and fire stations, in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

According to sources, the installations will take place over a nine-year period from fiscal 2022 to fiscal 2030, with the budget for the first year alone expected to be about ¥10 billion. By taking the lead in such installations, the metropolitan government seeks to encourage households and businesses to set up panels as well.

Tokyo’s endeavor will be one of the largest solar panel projects ever conducted by a prefectural government, the Environment Ministry said.

The Tokyo government has been promoting the installation of solar panels at its facilities. A “mega solar” system that generates up to more than 1,000 kilowatts of power has been installed at the Toyosu fish market, which opened in October 2018 in Koto Ward, and at a water purification plant with extensive grounds.

However, the installation of solar panels at smaller facilities, including municipal apartment buildings, police and fire facilities, as well as municipal schools, has been delayed. Less than 10% of about 1,260 metropolitan government-owned housing complexes have had panels installed.

And even among apartment buildings that do have solar panels, the output per complex was primarily around 5 kilowatts, the same as that generated by an average household.

In response to this situation, the metropolitan government will increase the number of facilities equipped with panels from fiscal 2022.

In addition to metropolitan housing, there are about 930 police stations and police boxes, about 290 fire stations and fire station branches, and about 250 municipal schools. Aiming to set up panels at all facilities that are suitable in terms of sunlight and the durability of the buildings, the metropolitan government has started making the necessary arrangements with the Metropolitan Police Department and the Tokyo Fire Department.

It plans to survey the condition of the buildings and install panels at about 280 facilities in fiscal 2022, in a bid to achieve an output of about 3,000 kilowatts.

The metropolitan government plans to increase the output of solar power generation at its major facilities from 7,860 kilowatts in fiscal 2019, to 12,000 kilowatts by fiscal 2024. It will also accelerate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, aiming to trim them by about 300,000 tons compared to fiscal 2000 levels.

The national government has set a target of realizing net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the metropolitan government has its own goal of halving emissions in Tokyo from 2000 levels by 2030. However, greenhouse gas emissions in Tokyo in fiscal 2019 totaled 62.11 million tons, almost unchanged from fiscal 2000.

According to a fiscal 2019 survey by the metropolitan government, there were 2,250,915 buildings in Tokyo, excluding islands under its jurisdiction, that could expect a certain amount of sunlight and were suitable for solar panels. However, panels had been installed at only 4.2% of them.

A senior official of the metropolitan government’s Environment Bureau said there is a great deal of room on the roofs of Tokyo’s buildings.

“We want to start the installation efforts at metropolitan facilities with the mindset that ‘a big project should start with something close at hand,’” the official said.

While using the electricity generated by solar panels at the facilities where they are installed, the metropolitan government will consider selling the surplus. It will also study the installation of storage batteries in metropolitan housing complexes to be used as evacuation centers in the event of a disaster.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun in late December that buildings hold the key to measures against global warming in the metropolis.

“We’re going to install solar power generation equipment at all kinds of buildings, including those for police and firefighters as well as municipal housing,” she said, expressing her desire to make a serious effort to achieve zero greenhouse gas emissions.