Low Carbon Society
Promoting introduction of renewable energy (solar × agriculture × ∞)
Aiming to increase the growth of renewable energy by taking advantage of collaboration with agriculture
In 2012, I joined ENEOS Holdings (heritage TonenGeneral Sekiyu K.K.). I worked as a project engineer and plant engineer at the Sakai, Wakayama and Kawasaki refineries for seven years. In2019, I moved to the Emerging Business Development Department (current position), where I’m working to achieve a low-carbon, recycling-oriented society through the spread of Solar Sharing.
Let me introduce myself in more detail. I was born into a farming family in Gunma Prefecture and grew up in an agricultural environment. In college, I chose a laboratory that dealt with a broad range of topics because I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. The topic of that laboratory was environmental issues. After graduation, a number of factors led to my decision to join ENEOS, where I gained experience as an engineer in the energy industry. My career can be defined by three key words: “agriculture”, “environmental issues” and “energy.”
Now let’s get down to business…
Yes, this method contains all the key words of my career.
Recently, to increase the growth of renewable energy from a standpoint of reducing CO2 emissions, various technologies are being developed in Japan and abroad. However, the percentage of renewable energy in Japan remains at around 20% due to weather conditions and geographical constraints. This is a low level in terms of global standards and is not a sufficient figure from an environmental impact perspective.
At the refineries, there were many occasions when the trend toward reducing dependence on oil became apparent. For example, every day we saw the equipment operating rate go down. As a result, capital investment decisions aimed solely at profitability have become more and more difficult (of course, there is adequate investment to ensure safety). Thus, at oil refining sites as well, we felt the need for attention to the environment and the reduction of dependence on oil.
Around that time, the JXTG Group’s Long-Term Vision to 2040 was released. I became interested in participating in the creation of new businesses to solve company and societal challenges.Since August 2019, I have been in charge of creating businesses using Solar Sharing.
Solar Sharing is a technology that focuses on the light saturation point of plants and installs solar panels on farmland with a calculated gap for each plant to be cultivated. The technology allows for both solar power and farming at the same place.
Our initiatives for Solar Sharing began when we met Agritree Co., Ltd. at the JXTG Group Accelerator Program in 2018. The company provides consulting services for construction and operation of Solar Sharing. We had never worked on solar power on agricultural land before. We formed a capital alliance with the company in August 2019, as this new perspective on solar power could greatly contribute to increasing the growth of renewable energy in Japan.
After that, we visited various farmlands with Mr. Nishi, a representative of Agritree, and participated in discussions among the people concerned with promoting Solar Sharing. The challenges of Solar Sharing are that it is more expensive than standard solar installations and may interfere with farmers’ workability. However, there has been a high degree of interest from farmers, and I see a lot of potential for reviving farmlands and increasing profitability in agriculture.
I also believe that the most important feature of Solar Sharing is that it combines agriculture and the energy industry, which were originally two separate industries. By taking advantage of this feature, we aim to contribute to solving the problems faced by each industry and promote Solar Sharing in a sustainable way.
solar × agriculture × ∞
Background / Details
ENEOS has very limited knowledge of agriculture, so we are actively and continuously gathering information on all aspects of agriculture. Through the Association for the Promotion of Smart Agriculture, operated by the Koyu Foundation, I met AGRIST Inc. in Miyazaki Prefecture. AGRIST is a start-up company that is working to solve issues such as the aging of the agricultural workforce and the decline of rural areas due to labor shortages through the use of agricultural harvesting robots. The challenges of Solar Sharing related to workability could be solved through robotic automation. So we invested in AGRIST in March 2020.
We will continue to improve the growth of renewable energy in Japan by expanding Solar Sharing. We look forward to hearing from you if you have expertise in technologies and initiatives that can solve Solar Sharing’s challenges. As I mentioned, I come from a farming family in Gunma Prefecture. I am happy to be able to contribute to solving agricultural problems while working at ENEOS. Let’s work together to shape the future of renewable energy and agriculture.
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