Solar farms may soon be allowed on abandoned land

The government has firmed up details on a proposal to expand the usage options of abandoned land across the country. The goal is to make the land available for disaster preparation facilities, and renewable energy plants.

Under current regulations, land with unidentifiable owners can be temporarily repurposed for the use of parks, hospitals, and other public facilities. In these situations, the prefectural governor has the authority to give temporary land usage rights to third parties. However, there is a six-month public notice requirement and various procedures and investigations that must be carried out for this to be possible. To date, no land has been utilized under this scheme. 

Under a revision to a special measures law targeting land with unidentified owners, the allowable uses for the land may be relaxed to include storage warehouses for disaster preparation, and small-scale renewable energy facilities such as solar and battery storage plants. 

The land usage period may also be extended from its current limit of 10 years to a maximum term of 20 years. It is hoped that this will allow the investment in renewable energy facilities to be recouped over a longer span.

Abandoned land, or land without any identifiable owners, has been rapidly increasing across the country, with the most likely cause being the lack of obligations to update property titles when inheritance occurs (this will soon be mandatory). In 2016 it was estimated that there were 4.1 million hectares of abandoned land nationwide, larger than the Kyushu region. By 2040 it is forecast to expand to over 7.2 million hectares – that’s 2.5 times the size of Hawaii.

Source: The Yomiuri Shimbun, August 28, 2021.

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