Renewable Energy-related Business

Energy represents one of the major challenges in the building of a sustainable society. Renewable energy is covered in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations.
The Mitsui Chemicals Group is contributing to the resolving of energy challenges through its sustainable energy-related businesses, including the Diagnostics and Consulting Business in photovoltaic power generation and at the TAHARA SOLAR WIND™ Joint Project.

Diagnostics and Consulting Business for Photovoltaic Power Generation

Three years have passed since the launch of the diagnostics and consulting business for photovoltaic power generation in March 2014. The Mitsui Chemicals Group has been providing the world with encapsulant sheets for solar cells for more than 25 years and is well versed in the damage and problems that long-term outdoor exposure can cause to solar panels. The Company also maintains photovoltaic power generation facilities, such as the TAHARA SOLAR WIND™ power generation facility, and draws on its expertise in the key issues in their development as well as in their repair and maintenance. Leveraging these areas of its expertise, the Company is providing services from a third-party standpoint that are in tune with the life cycles of photovoltaic power generation facilities.

As a consequence of the renewable energy feed-in tariffs (FITs), which were launched in July 2012, there was increased activity in the planning and development of photovoltaic power generation facilities. At the end of November 2016, 81.2GW of photovoltaic power generation facilities had received FIT certification, of which 31.6GW were in operation, and the expectations were that power generation facilities would continue to be built in the years to come.
If you compare the photovoltaic power generation facilities built from 2016 onwards with the start of FIT

(a)
There are many large-scale projects (of 2MW or more) being built on former golf courses and on plots with inclines in mountainous regions, the building costs of which are higher than on flat land. Their development (from the applications for permits to, for example, develop forest land to the start of operations) also takes time
(b)
The FIT purchase price is \24–36/kWh, lower than the initial \40/kWh, and
(c)
There is an increasing number of projects that are subjected to curtailment from electric power companies), and some projects are thus obliged to install storage batteries.

For these reasons, Japanese and overseas operators that possess high levels of expertise relating to photovoltaic power generation are entering the business, and there is an increasing number of projects in which foreign-made, low-priced solar panels are being installed. Against this business backdrop, there is also an increasing number of operators utilizing the services of Mitsui Chemicals, which possesses advanced knowledge of both photovoltaic power generation facilities and solar panels.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange established its infrastructure fund market in April 2015 and, against the background of the third listing of a photovoltaic power generation facility fund up to the end of March 2017, has activated the secondary market (the buying and selling of operational power generation facilities) to set up listed or private photovoltaic power generation facility funds. This secondary market requires due diligence (asset value assessments) on the part of the power generation facilities, and requests for the Company’s power generation facility technology due diligence (DD) service are increasing. (Please refer to “Services that are in tune with the life cycles of photovoltaic power generation facilities” below.)
Through these business activities, Mitsui Chemicals is contributing to the stable development and operation of photovoltaic power generation, which holds an important position amid the push toward the increased use of renewable energy.

Services that are in tune with the life cycles of photovoltaic power generation facilities

Services that are in tune with the life cycles of photovoltaic power generation facilities

Sales of Diagnostic Services

  • The amount of technology DD service work on operational power generation facilities to set up (listed or private) photovoltaic power generation facility funds is increasing
  • In the case of planned power generation facility diagnostics, there is an increasing number of projects being built on hills, being subjected to output restraints and installing storage batteries as well as a growing number of large-scale projects (of 2MW or more)
  • The number of projects for foreign-affiliated (sponsor, EPC) companies is increasing
EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction):
Operators that design, procure and build power generation facilities


General view of power generation facility diagnostics work

Inquiries

Next Generation Business Development Div.solar-adviser@mitsuichemicals.com

TAHARA SOLAR WIND™ Power Generation Facility

In conjunction with Mitsui & Co. and five other companies, Mitsui Chemicals, as the representative company, commenced commercial operations of TAHARA SOLAR WIND™, a combined solar and wind power hybrid power generation facility capable of generating 56MW along the coastal area of Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture, in October 2014.
Blessed with good weather, the facility is stably supplying a greater than anticipated amount of electricity to power companies.
An issue for the future is operation and maintenance (O&M). The weather naturally has a major influence on ensuring that a stable amount of power is generated, but the early detection and repair of power generation facility defects as well as the removal of weeds so that the solar panels are not in shadow are also essential. However, there are approximately 214,000 solar panels at the TAHARA SOLAR WIND™ power generation facility and, as the concrete foundations supporting the panel stands have a total length of about 100 km, to travel around the entire power plant would necessitate walking a distance of about 200 km. Aerial photography of the solar panels using a drone was thus conducted on an experimental basis. When an infrared camera-equipped drone takes a photograph of a place where heat is being generated (a hot spot) due to a shadow cast by weeds or a manufacturing defect, that place appears brighter. This will provide an effective method for identifying areas that are overgrown with weeds or defective on a large-scale power-generation facility like the TAHARA SOLAR WIND™ power generation facility. We are considering the feasibility of utilizing drones to assist in the O&M of this power plant in the years to come.


An example of weeds hampering power generation

A drone of the type utilized for aerial photography

Color camera photo (left) and infrared camera photo (right) taken by a drone.

Fiscal 2016 power generation status