How Windows Azure is Helping Manage Solar Energy Generation in Japan

| Josh Henretig

solarpanels1Solar energy is taking off in Japan. In fact, last year nearly 3 GW of photovoltaics were installed across the country. The country’s tight power supply and demand situation—the vast majority of nuclear generation was taken offline following the Fukushima disaster—has made managing energy generation a very important issue. That’s one reason why the town of Nichinan in Hino-gun, Tottori Prefecture, has turned to the Windows Azure cloud service as part of the energy management system for its new solar power station.

Since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, Japan has doubled down on efforts to expand the country’s renewable energy production. Before the earthquake and tsunami critically damaged the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, Japan received as much as 30 percent of its energy from nuclear power and planned to expand nuclear generation to 50 percent of the country’s energy needs.

The earthquake and tsunami radically changed how Japan thinks about energy. Japan took its nuclear generation capacity offline and initiated a massive undertaking to build out renewable energy generation, which included a feed-in tariff for solar energy that was introduced in July 2012. While some nuclear capacity has come online in the past year, Japan has remained committed to building out an extensive renewable energy system, with $15 billion set aside for renewable energy initiatives in 2013 alone.

The new Iwami Higashi Solar Power Station is part of Japan’s shift toward renewables. Constructed on 0.6 hectares of land where the town’s former elementary school stood, the solar power station is comprised of 1,428 solar panels with a total power generation capacity of nearly 340 kW. It’s expected to generate nearly 270,000 kWh of power per year.

dashboardThe facility is using a power generation management system from Mountain Fields, Inc., that is built on the Windows Azure platform. The new system went into effect in March. By using a cloud-based system, the power station’s performance can be monitored remotely to ensure that the power station’s generation capacity is used as effectively as possible. The system monitors power station performance over the Internet by gathering power output, solar panel operational status and other data transmitted by various sensors on the Windows Azure cloud platform. A highly scalable cloud service like Windows Azure ensures that the power station’s operators can respond to sudden increases in data volume or future expansion to the power station. It also ensures that the station’s operators can promptly restore operations in the event that a malfunction occurs in the power generation system or solar panels.

Technology providers like Microsoft have a unique contribution to make toward addressing global environmental challenges, like Japan’s effort to transform its energy grid. We’re honored to be a part of the shift toward renewable energy in Japan, one solar power plant at a time.

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