A power of good
How a real estate company is channeling its history of innovation into developing the green energy needed to fuel Japan’s future
One of Japan’s leading real estate developers, the Tokyu Land Corporation has never shied away from challenging industry conventions. The firm traces its history back to the Garden City Company, established in 1918 by Eiichi Shibusawa, “the father of Japanese capitalism,” to build Japan’s first British-style garden city in a suburb south of Tokyo. Named Denenchofu, that project proved a resounding success and formed the foundation for Tokyu Land’s subsequent business expansion, which has seen the company push forward with one innovative development after another.
Particularly noteworthy projects include the Asumigaoka New Town in Chiba, east of Tokyo, a 400-hectare site that Tokyu Land began developing in the 1980s. Asumigaoka broke new ground in the industry with its spacious plots, overturning the suburban Japanese tradition of cramped subdivisions and giving residents room to enjoy near-to-nature living to the fullest. In nearby Kiminomori, the company combined luxury housing with a full-scale golf course—another Japan first—by leveraging its experience in developing vacation resorts in destinations including Hokkaido and Nagano.
But Tokyu Land is perhaps best known for its ongoing, group-wide efforts to revamp Shibuya, Tokyo’s ever-buzzing hub of street culture. A diverse array of construction projects, together dubbed a “once-in-a-100-years” redevelopment, has already transformed the face of the neighborhood. A patchwork of glistening high-rises, calming green spaces, and water—in the shape of the Shibuya River, flowing freely again after decades of confinement underneath layers of concrete–is emerging, with plenty of new pieces still set to be added by the expected completion date of 2027.
Tokyu Land, however, is already looking further into the future by going all in on what could be its most significant bet yet: the strengthening of its renewable energy business. Since outlining an environmental vision back in 1998, the company has taken tangible steps to promote green energy, moving into solar and wind power development in 2014 and 2015 respectively. In 2019, Tokyu Land became the first real estate company in the world to join the RE100 initiative of businesses committed to using only electricity produced from renewable sources—a goal the company is seeking to achieve by 2025.
Under the ReENE brand, Tokyu Land operates a total of 67* solar, wind, and biomass power plants throughout Japan, with an annual capacity of up to 1,197 megawatts, or roughly enough electricity to power 370,000 homes.
Solar panels in Kiminomori | Picture courtesy of Tokyu Land Corporation
Solar power makes up the bulk of Tokyu Land’s current renewable energy portfolio. The company has 56 solar power plants across Japan, ranging from large-scale installations such as the Suzuran Kushiro plant in Hokkaido to site-specific facilities such as one at the Shibayama golf club in Chiba, where solar panels have been installed on the roof of the club’s parking lot.
The first ReENE biomass plant is expected to go online in the city of Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, in March 2022. It will run on wood pellets and palm kernel shells, and provide a stable source of baseload power unaffected by changes in the weather.
The Matsumae wind farm | Picture courtesy of Tokyu Land Corporation
Tokyu Land’s 10 wind power plants include the Matsumae wind farm in southern Hokkaido, the first facility of its kind on Japan’s northernmost main island to include a battery storage system. This solution helps reduce fluctuation in electricity output, meaning that the plant keeps providing power even when the wind isn’t blowing. The plant’s 12 wind turbines are some of the largest and most powerful in the country and are connected to a local micro-grid that ensures lights will stay on in the town of Matsumae even if a natural disaster were to disrupt the wider grid.
Tokyu Land is also examining future business opportunities in offshore wind power, which the Japanese government has designated a focus area in the country’s efforts to become carbon neutral by 2050.
In April 2021, Tokyu Land announced that it had finished converting 17 of its most advanced office and commercial buildings–including 12 in the Shibuya area—to run entirely on renewable energy. This amounts to a 9,400-ton reduction in CO2 emissions annually, which equals the emissions of 4,825 average households. The company is aiming to accomplish the same for all of its office buildings this year.
Renewables and regional development
Besides caring for the global environment and helping Japan achieve its sustainability goals, Tokyu Land’s commitment to renewable energy is also aimed at revitalizing rural areas throughout the country. ReENE power plants have already created jobs and opportunities for new business in communities from Hokkaido in the north to Kagoshima in the south. Meanwhile, the company is stepping up its efforts to achieve a cycle of local production for local consumption in the future, helping lay the groundwork for major energy consumers to set up factories, data centers, and other facilities in the municipalities that host ReENE plants.
Note: Figures in the article, including the number of power plants and their capacity, reflect the situation as of December 2021. *Includes facilities that are still under construction.
To discover more about Tokyu Land’s work in renewable energy watch the Japanese-language videos below