An industrial plant developer in southwest Japan has developed an innovative solution that uses water in swimming pools at schools that no longer exist to prevent the solar power systems from overheating.
ELM Inc., which said its pool-based solar system is the first of its kind in Japan, began operating its first installation Monday during a ceremony at a school where its headquarters are in Minamisatsuma, Kagoshima Prefecture.
Photo taken on Jan. 18, 2021 shows solar panels installed on the surface of swimming pools at an abandoned school in Minamisatsuma, Kagoshima Prefecture. (Kyodo)
With the ELM system, pools are housed in closed schools, which is common in Japan due to the low birth rate. These are often used as heat sinks, which improves the efficiency of solar panels that suffer from overheating in direct sunlight.
In ELM's cost-effective solution, panels are installed on floating pontoons, with pool water used to cool the cells above. In the school in Minamisatsuma, the changing rooms of the pool were used to store the converter.
Around 30 people involved in the project gathered at the ceremony on Monday at the school, where 160 solar panels were installed on two pools, one 25 meters long and the other 6 meters long.
“Pools in abandoned schools have no use so I want them to play the role of a powerhouse for the region,” said Takakazu Miyahara, CEO of ELM.
The company estimates that the system in Minamisatsuma can generate around 61,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. The average household in Kyushu uses around 300 kWh per month.
It will sell the electricity to Kyushu Electric Power Co., which powers the region in southwestern Japan, and it is also contemplated installing a battery storage system for natural disasters and other emergencies in the future.
ELM plans to roll out the system at 15 locations in Kagoshima and Okayama Prefecture in western Japan.