Japan has set to work to respond to the gradual abandonment of farmland in the country: the creation of solar plants that, in addition to generating clean energy, favor the production of tons of black mushrooms or Auricularia polytricha , a widely consumed mushroom in the country. Generating solar energy and growing food, a concept that we already talked about with agrovoltaic energy.
The idea has been launched by the startup specialized in renewable energies Sustainergy, together with the financial company Hitachi Capital and the construction company Daiwa House Industry. Specifically, their plans include the construction of two solar plants in northeast Japan that, of course, will not be two more facilities. With a production of 2,000 kilowatts of energy in each of them, they already outperform any other in the country.
But in addition to providing 4,000 kilowatts, these plants will serve another purpose: the production of black mushrooms. Its cultivation, which requires low exposure to sunlight, fits perfectly into the free space under the panels. They are expected to produce up to 40 tons per year of this mushroom, which, today, is mostly imported from China.
The plants, planned in Miyagi prefecture with an investment of 11 million dollars, are the first step in this more ambitious initiative. If all goes well, the promoters propose to extend the concept to producers throughout the country. The potential benefits for them are clear. Energy to cover their needs and even to obtain extra income, in addition to the cultivation of a product for which it is considered that there will be demand. For this, Hitachi Capital would provide the panels and equipment, while Daiwa House would take care of the construction and maintenance of the facilities.
Although the idea of promoting solar energy installations on abandoned farmlands has been around for some time, the restrictions that existed to convert these spaces had pulled the brake on this possibility. However, the turnaround operated by the Japanese Government in 2013 has allowed to promote this initiative that promotes a dual use for the land. This aspect was key, since the executive is in favor of the lands continuing to maintain certain agricultural activity.
The government’s insistence is not surprising since the aging of the Japanese population and the preference of young people for the city has led to an abandonment of agricultural areas that is advancing inexorably at a rate of 10% per year. According to estimates from the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, the conversion of these vacant lands into mixed facilities for the capture of solar energy and cultivation could provide Japan with up to 70,000 megawatts or, what is the same, enough energy to supply 20 million households.