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Man sues solar panel plant over glare, heat from reflection

32 Comments
By Kenji Kaneko, Nikkei BP CleanTech Institute

A man living in Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture, has sued a company that supported the development of a solar power plant with an output of about 1MW for removal of solar panels and compensation for damage, claiming his peaceful daily life was threatened by light and heat reflected from the solar panels.

The man filed the lawsuit against JAG Energy Co Ltd at the Himeji branch of the Kobe District Court last September, asking for compensation of ¥3.3 million.

The mega (large-scale) solar power plant, "Himeji Solar Way," has 1.224MW of solar panels and 990kW (rated output) of PV inverters. It was built on reclaimed land located between a residential area and a reservoir. Each array consists of six rows of crystalline silicon solar panels running sideways and the panels are tilted at an angle of 15 degrees.

JAG Energy, a subsidiary of Japan Asia Group Ltd, supported the development of the plant. The power producer is Himeji Solar Way LLC, which is a special purpose company (SPC). Energy Explorer (general incorporated association) made an equity investment in the SPC. Also, capital is raised through investment by an anonymous association.

For the plant, Toko Electrical Construction Co Ltd provided construction services, and JAG Power Engineering Co Ltd (a subsidiary of Japan Asia Group) is responsible for O&M (operation and maintenance).

Oral proceedings were held Nov 16, 2015, and both parties submitted a written answer in mid-January. According to the written complaint, after the solar panels were installed in June 2014, the reflected light started to enter a room on the second floor of the plaintiff's residential house through a window facing east. The temperature in the room rose to 40°C in June, 45-50°C in July and higher than 50°C in August, and the plaintiff and his wife were diagnosed as having suffered heatstroke.

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32 Comments
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Like a mirror at a soccer game.

The guy has a point.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Close your curtains and put on the air con.......

-18 ( +2 / -20 )

Wow Kay I say he has a point. Although kind of a fluke he has suffered if there's a glare and a massive increase in heat. I think he should be compensated and they should pay for him t move to a new location.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

What's everyone's take on this? Is the guy another 'claimer', or does he have a valid point? I'm erring towards his side.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Valid claim, and a quick visit can confirm it.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I feel bad for the guy. Imagine you owned a home and were living peacefully in it when a development like this went up and caused this much trouble. It'll be hard to sell a home next to a solar power plant, and Japanese homes have such a low re-sale value that it'd be a financial loss for him. I'd be frustrated if I were in his shoes.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

I always think when I see one of these fields of solar panels...what a waste of space. Couldn't they have built something on the land - a shopping centre, a hydroponics farm, a car park even - and put the panels on top of that? More use out of the same bit of land, and less chance of the kind of thing this man is complaining about happening.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Complaining about heat and sunlight?! What is he? A Vampire?

-12 ( +4 / -16 )

Cleo: Don't you think there are enough shopping centers already? How about a park with trees etc.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

According to the written complaint, after the solar panels were installed in June 2014, the reflected light started to enter a room on the second floor of the plaintiff’s residential house through a window facing east. The temperature in the room rose to 40°C in June, 45-50°C in July and higher than 50°C in August, and the plaintiff and his wife were diagnosed as having suffered heatstroke.

Solar panels are usually set facing south. So, how can the reflection light enter his room from east, and how long every day? I guess just an hour or less during morning hours. I do not believe the room temperature could rise that much due to the reflection.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Close your curtains and put on the air con....... and the solar company should pay him for the electricity and compensation for his lack of window view to the outside.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Don't you think there are enough shopping centers already? How about a park with trees etc.

They could use the roof of an already-built shopping centre, and put a park in the empty space. I don't think a park with trees under a roof carrying solar panels would be very popular.....

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Seems like a flaw in the design of the solar plant if this much light escapes the system.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Considering it is not Nuclear, hopefully the court will listen the claim.... maybe.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I have no idea if solar panel reflections are capable of raising the heat in a room at a distance like that. If it does though he probably has a good case.

To be honest I kind of find the tendency to build these solar plants on perfectly good, and scarce, land in Japan like this a bit stupid. There are so many parking lots, warehouses, etc where you could easily put the land to dual use without losing any productivity. Having them elevated like that would likely reduce the risk of causing a nuisance to neighbors like this too. I am guessing there are tax, zoning or other incentives at work which encourage this inefficient use of space.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I have sometimes wondered about the reflected light, we have LOTS of solar in northern Chiba. The thing that gets me is in some cases forests are actually destroyed to install solar panels, now they are even destroying forests on hillsides as well to put in more panels.............THAT seems wrong to me

I hope this guy can find an appropriate solution, perhaps another set of panels(not necessarily solar) to re-direct the reflected light back upwards perhaps....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Hey. It is going to happen. But it is probably not that bad.

First of all, someone remarked that the reflection in an eastward facing window is odd. No it isn't. The panels were probably set up with at least some of them facing west, as some "green specialists" named Bob on the internet have advised. I have always advocated against this idiocy, and here is yet another reason why. In summer, when you have very high temperatures and a high sun that goes down late, you will be sending a reflection from the west-sinking sun into east-facing windows. Frankly, sending a reflection into north facing windows is not nearly as likely to cause a problem because most people have small windows on their home's north face anyway.

Countervailing that, these panels are at 15 degrees, which is really quite flat. I have a hard time believing that they are THAT close to this other building that a 15 degree angle would be a problem (do the math, trig required), and it certainly explains why this is only a problem on the second floor.

And come on. Heatstroke? I think the doctor is getting a cut of the action here. The plaintiff has a duty to mitigate damages, so putting up some screen could have saved them a medical emergency. They called the waaaambulance instead. I accuse them of being lazy complainers. Of course they are going to go to court before trying to solve the problem as normal people might.

To solve the problem, the owners can just resite this or arrange to have some panels moved to track the sun differently during different seasons. After all, these panels could just as well provide heating during the winter, right? Four of those panels can provide free air conditioning in the summer too, so... this did not become a big deal until the homeowner's contracted acute NIMBYism.

Cleo and others:

Many times a roof is not strong enough to hold the panels. People site them on weird lots, flood prone land, contaminated sites, difficult to maintain areas, etc. I have not seen a lot of really nasty abuses of "prime land" being used for panels. There are economic reasons that is not likely to occur anyway. These ground installations are often the highest and best use of land here and there, and it sets up the land for use in the future for other purposes. One must also keep in mind that the trend in Japan is toward disuse of land. If people did not put up panels in vacant lots, we would probably just have more vacant lots.

Just as with nuclear, we need to be mature and weigh all the costs and benefits. Solar might be the best humans can do nowadays. If we just junk all of our panels to cut glare for some cranky octogenarian, we will all wind up choking on coal fumes.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The solution will be to build a giant wall next to his house to block the glare. It'll be an even worse eye sore...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Have the judge sit in the house room a summer day and determine this once and for all

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The company should have taken into consideration how much trouble their solar panels would make to the neighbors.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This is old news as I watched the report on TV a while ago, can’t remember when it was aired but must have been a time when it was still hot.

The man’s house was right next to the field and it was one of many lined up against the solar farms edge. They had a reporter in the house and the reflective glare lit up the whole room. The only good point is that the man didn’t need to turn on any lights on the second floor but the reporter had a thermostat that read a 50+ degrees when they tested it...... it also reported that the power plant erected some kind of net like the ones you see around baseball fields and he said it was put up to stop the glare.

I hope he wins but 3 million is a not much compared to how much he must of paid for his house and I don’t think 3 million would last long to pay for the aircon fees for the next few years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Cleo: Why do you want to put cement on everything, and I did not say to put a park under the panels. Just leave the land as natural. People in this country want to cement everything over. Don't you like real nature, or do you like Japanese style nature, which is to control nature with trite designs and cement?

CH3 is correct about the panel directions and reflections.

-4 ( +1 / -4 )

Why do you want to put cement on everything, and I did not say to put a park under the panels. Just leave the land as natural.

I didn't suggest putting cement on everything. What I said was that filling land (that could be left natural, or turned into a park) with solar panels was a waste of the land, since the panels could be put on top of a building instead of on the ground. The discussion is about where to put the panels, not what to put on the land instead of panels. Assuming that you need the panels to generate power, then you need a place to put the panels. Surely solar panels are better than a big concrete coal-fired power plant.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I can see how the reflection is a nuisance, and if it's found the heat has risen that much, the guy should be compensated and moved (not the panels necessarily). But, I find it hard to believe the temperature could have risen so much because the air temperature would not change at all from the reflection -- it could only be absorbed, then the heat given off later, and I doubt it would be that much. If the reflection were causing that much of a heat increase there would be risk of melting and or fires, you would think.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

the air temperature would not change at all from the reflection -- it could only be absorbed, then the heat given off later

That doesn't make sense.

Consider this - use a mirror to redirect a beam of light into a dark room. Focus that beam of light through a magnifying glass, and point that at paper. The paper will still burn - the heat is not absorbed by the mirror. Or at least, the majority of it is not, the mirror may absorb a small amount of the heat.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Each array consists of six rows of crystalline silicon solar panels running sideways and the panels are tilted at an angle of 15 degrees.

Assuming the house is more than 10 meters away from the panels, and the height of the window of the two-story house is 4 meters higher than the panels, the altitude of the window from the panels is, at most, 22 degrees. I did some calculation, and the sun light reflected on a miller facing south tilted 15 degrees placed at 35 degrees North is higher than 22 degrees by 7:30 am in June, July and August. So, the reflection light does not hit the window of the house after 7:30 am in summer. I think it is unlikely that the room temperature gets more than 50 degrees C because of the reflection light.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

kudos to Ch3Co and Simon for "shedding light" on this. Ch3Co, you might be off in your reflection assumptions. The panels might not be south facing. If these bozos have their panels set facing west, then when the sun gets high enough in the sky over them, coming from the east, the light reflects and hits the east facing window at a low angle in the mid morning, and at an increasingly higher angle as the day progresses. It will max out in the early afternoon in the summer.. with the sun overhead and slightly to the west. The hottest time of the day. That is how an east facing window can get especially cooked. Also, at a minimum, it is getting the basic insolation from the sun PLUS another dose from the panels.

The trend of putting panels facing west has to do with the "duck curve." Utilities want to buy power in the late afternoon rather than early morning. It is not a physical issue, it is an economic one. The array owners might have agreed to do this to get quick utility approval for the project.

Without knowing a whole lot about the layout, I figured the house would have to be close to the array for the angles explained in the story. And frankly, if it is that close, a matter of a few meters, then yeah, they are probably getting blasted. 50 degrees is not unbelievable. Somebody needs to do something.

Is a lawsuit necessary? I find it hard to believe that nobody noticed a problem until someone got heatstroke, so I fault the plaintiffs for not doing something and just waiting until there was some "damage" so they could sue. That is cheesy. But if the solar company has not addressed the issue despite repeated claims, they win the cheese award to be sure. They deserve each other as neighbors, probably.

The good news is that I think the problem can be solved in many ways. They could pay for air conditioning for the people. Not a big deal. Peanuts. They could probably fix the angles of a few collectors for a few months out of the year. They could duplicate the capacity by setting up a mirrored wall that would shade the affected house. Those are pretty cheap solutions. Simple motors to change the angles of a few panels during the day are an easy high school science project. Or the solar people could just change the angle of the whole array and take the hit to efficiency. As a practical matter, it is not a big deal. As a matter of principle, I am sure it is complicated.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

so the company owes him an awning. Or maybe the company can put up a barrier on its property.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Close your curtains and put on the air con.......

The radiated energy still enters the room before getting to the curtains. Actually having to use the air conditioning gives the plaintiff even MORE "damages" ammunition as he can now show how much more his electric bill is since the site started heating up his house.

This is why it's better to have the panels on gimbals and tracking the sun: reflections are always right back at the sun rather than at buildings on the ground except at sunrise and sunset (when the sun's rays are the weakest)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

yea, but its a win in winter... probably just trying to make a quick buck

0 ( +0 / -0 )

General comments, might be helpful,

@Fadamor The tracking and rotation are usually a false economy. People make a big deal about "tracking the sun," but it usually only increases efficiency by 10% ish, and it involves moving parts and various other hassles. In this case, it might solve the specific problem, but one definitely can't say "it's better" to have tracking. If this were my system and I could find the particular panels affecting this guy's house, I would just mount them with a pivot in the center (wing nuts?) and just tip the panel bottoms upward to make them 0--5 degrees. Then I would put a few cinder blocks under them and call it good. I would do that in May and leave it. Then in October, I would come back and tilt the panels back down. It might be just that simple.

@Cleo Regarding location of solar panels, roof installations are popular because residential roofing is usually done with overkill. Almost any residential roof will support 20 or 30 panels with no problem. But people wonder about why Costco and Walmart and others seem to be slow to adopt. Well, once the panels get to the 50 mark or so, you are talking about a lot of mass, and that is in addition to AC and refrigeration and elevator machinery that is already up there. Factor in earthquake considerations, and the fact that warehouse space is made to be cheap, cheap, cheap, and it becomes a pretty hard sell.

I tried to get a solar car port installed, and most installers won't do it. Car ports aren't designed to support the mass, which might be "only" 200-300 kg. Go figure. So people go DIY and take their chances. A good quake or a strong wind might bring it all down on the wife's BMW. Yikes! Panels WILL void a carport warranty.

Commercially, people go for larger installations on disused or little used land. It is cheaper to put the panels down, but then the land can't really be used for other things. And the land is usually so far away from consumers that utilities will give you the runaround or just stonewall you. Property taxes. Security. It has its hassles. Projects have to be big. But not too big.

"Land in transition" is a market sweet spot. I think a lot of Fukushima land and coastal lands in Tohoku could be used for quasi-temporary solar generation. Parking lots of shuttered pachinko parlors. Areas near power lines or substations. Golf courses are great because maintaining them is a huge financial drag. Panels can solve a lot of problems while people figure out what to do with land over the long term. For Japan's problems with depopulation, solar can actually be very useful even to hide some eyesores.

And finally, I think you and I live in somewhat "wild" areas. I think development of those areas is pretty rare, even though it is very visible. People who are doing it will wind up giving up, I predict. Weeds, animals (monkeys!), vandals (monkeys!), unsupportive utilities, taxes, maintenance, and small scale (high costs) naturally limit this kind of thing. Reservoir installations, although costly to install, have almost no other costs, which is why they are getting a lot of attention. Once they start, complaining is all that will stop them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan has way way to many silly old busy bodies.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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