For the Group, tackling climate change has been one of its most important tasks for building a decarbonized society. Reflecting this, the Group has been approaching manufacturing with a view to reducing the environmental impact and has developed and promoted the use of renewable sources of energy, such as geothermal energy.
We regard “next-generation vehicles,” “IoT and AI,” “urban mining” and “clean energy and decarbonization" as social needs that the Group should grasp in our medium-term management strategy. In the areas of "next-generation vehicles" and "IoT and AI," we will expand the scope of its copper and aluminum products, seals, wear-resistant tools, and sensors, while developing new products and businesses. In the areas of "urban mines" and "clean energy and decarbonization," we will create new products and businesses from among those related to recycling, renewable energy and hydrogen society. As specific examples, we have been making announcements since 2019 on the development of metal base substrates for high-brightness LEDs for next-generation vehicles, uniform electrodeposition coating technology for high-heat-resistant and high-insulation resins, and die-bonding sinter materials for next-generation power modules. We are promoting dissemination by advancing the elemental technology development which is indispensable for these next-generation vehicles. We will continue our development to be put into practical use in stages by around 2050.
In the headlamp of the next-generation vehicle, the adoption of the high-brightness LED advances in place of the conventional light source for the energy saving. We have developed a metal base substrate that is lower in cost than conventional ceramic substrates while having the high heat dissipation required for high-brightness LEDs.
We intend to build the reliability of the printed circuit boards and launch a mass production process in order to commercialize and disseminate them by around 2022.
High insulation reliability under high temperature is required for coils used in power inductors, motors and reactors, which are used in inverters for controlling high-output motor power supply of next-generation vehicles.
Recently, with demand for further miniaturization of those coil devices, a uniform coating technology is getting required to perform insulation of complex-shaped conductors. We have developed a unique electrodeposition technology that can uniformly coat resin film with high heat resistance and high insulation property even for complex shapes.
In the future, further upgrading of film characteristics will be carried out, and the construction of mass production process of electrodeposition machining will be aimed at by around 2022.
In the next-generation type power module used in the inverter for high output motor power supply control of the next-generation vehicle, there is a demand for the function enhancement in the die bonding for high-temperature operating semiconductor element such as SiC to the copper material. Previously, it was necessary to apply precious metal plating such as gold and silver to the substrate surface, and pressurize while heating. We have developed a die bonding material that can bond semiconductor die to substrate without pressure nor precious metal plating to the copper surface of the substrate, and can exhibit the bonding strength and heat resistance equivalent to the conventional die bonding products.
In the future, further improvement of reliability and optimization of the process will be carried out, and the commercialization and dissemination will be aimed at around 2021.
Mitsubishi Materials Corporation has started full-scale production of its Cu-Mg solid-solution strengthened*1 copper alloy "MSP5 .
With the development of autonomous driving cars and increase in electrical components as represented by Connected, Autonomous, Shared & Service, and Electric (CASE) mobility trends, the need for smaller automotive terminals has been increasing. The push to simplify manufacturing processes and to reduce environmental burden has also led to an increase in demand for solderless press-fit terminals, in Japan and elsewhere.
The alloy materials for these small terminals used in automotive electrical components must have high strength, high electrical conductivity, and high stress relaxation resistance (resistance against decrease in stress due to heat). Excellent formability is also required in order to prevent cracks or fractures from arising during press-forming, especially for box-shaped terminals.
Our sales, development and research departments have been working closely to commercialize and launch products that better meet the needs of our customers, making use of the unique copper and copper alloy processing technologies that we have honed over the years. In 2015 we developed MSP5, which has excellent formability as well as excellent strength, high electrical conductivity, and high stress relaxation resistance, making it ideal for small automotive terminals and press-fit terminals. Samples provided to our customers have led to positive feedback regarding its high performance and reliability, and we are now proud to announce the start of its full-scale production.
The Group has commenced operation of solar power generation facilities installed at two of its facilities using an onsite solar power generation service (PPA model*). This will enable a portion of the electric power consumed at those locations to be covered using renewable energy.
We contribute to reducing greenhouse gases by maintaining operation of exiting geothermal power stations sustainably and launching new geothermal power stations gradually in areas currently under construction and exploration.
In order to build more efficient geothermal power plants at lower cost, we improve engineering skills regarding resources exploration, resources development, plant engineering and operation management, which currently the Group owns.
Geothermal power generation is characterized by extremely low lifecycle CO2 emissions among renewable energies like hydroelectric power generation and also featured by a domestic energy source among renewable energies and a stable power source that is not affected by weather.
We started operation of the Onuma Geothermal Power Station (Kazuno City, Akita Prefecture, 9.5MW), which is the third geothermal power station in Japan in 1974, and started a steam supply project to the Sumikawa Geothermal Power Plant of Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc. (Kazuno City, Akita Prefecture, 50MW) in 1995 in cooperation with Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company, Inc. In May 2019, Wasabizawa Geothermal Power Station (46.2MW in Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture) began operation, jointly sponsored by Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co., Inc. In August 2019, Appi Geothermal Energy Corporation, a joint venture of Mitsubishi Materials Corporation, Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company, Inc. and Electric Power Development Co., Ltd., began construction of the Appi Geothermal Power Station (14.9MW in Hachimantai City, Iwate Prefecture) and is scheduled to begin operation in 2024. All of the power stations are located in heavy snowfall areas, and the Appi Geothermal Power Station, in particular, has the highest altitude in Japan and is expected to accumulate snow in excess of 4m, making it extremely challenging in terms of construction and operation.
Geothermal power generation is a technique of generating electricity by extracting steam and hot water from the underground, so exploration and development skills for underground resources hold the key to success. We plan to improve the skills cultivated over many years in mine development, and to explore promising geothermal resources by conducting geothermal surveys in new regions throughout Japan, mainly in the Tohoku region, and to start up geothermal power plants gradually. Preliminary surveys have already been conducted in multiple areas, and full-scale surveys involving drilling of wells are scheduled to start one after another from when preparations are completed.
The Group has joined Challenge Zero,* a project launched by the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren; hereinafter, the "Keidanren"). In this project, the Group will deploy technologies, products, and services that contribute to building a decarbonized society, in Japan and in other countries. The Group will also proactively collaborate with companies from the same industry and from other industries, and also with academia, government organizations, and others, thereby committing itself further to resolving issues related to climate change.
Information about specific initiatives the Group is taking as a part of Challenge Zero will be provided on the official Challenge Zero website maintained by the Keidanren.
We stably generate environmental loading-reducing electric power through our Ohnuma Geothermal Plant and Sumikawa Geothermal Plant (steam supply only, power generated by Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc.), both in the Hachimantai area of Kazuno, Akita prefecture, as well as the Wasabizawa Geothermal Power Plant (owned by Yuzawa Geothermal Power Corporation, established jointly with Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company, Inc.), which began commercial operation on May 20, 2019 in the Takamatsu and Akinomiya areas of Yuzawa, Akita prefecture. In fiscal 2020, we generated a total of 601 GWh of power. The operation of our geothermal plants and steam supply systems effectively reduced CO2 emissions by approx. 190,000 tons (*calculated based on emissions from Sumikawa Geothermal Plant of Tohoku Electric Power Co., Inc. and our equity stake in Wasabizawa Geothermal Power Plant of Yuzawa Geothermal Power Corporation).
In conducting the geothermal power generation business, we have to confirm the geothermal systems of Sumikawa area, in order to maintain continual and stable supplies of steam. We are working to maintain a geothermal reservoir at the Sumikawa Geothermal Area, with the aim of increasing the amount of power generated in the future. We have been examining data, and reanalyzing geothermal systems since we started operations at the site, as we continue to focus on maintaining stable operations.
In addition to operating existing power plants, we are currently working on new projects too. Yuzawa Geothermal Power Corporation, established jointly with Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company, Inc. started construction of Wasabizawa Geothermal Power Plant in May 2015 and began commercial operation of this plant on May 20, 2019. In October 2015, we established Appi Geothermal Energy Corporation in conjunction with Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Company, Inc. We were joined by Electric Power Development Co., Ltd. in June 2018. The three companies are promoting commercialization and started construction in August 2019.
We are also in the process of conducting joint surveys with other companies in the Bandai-Azuma-Adatara area of Fukushima prefecture. We are hoping to carry out further studies in the Komonomori area of Kazuno, Akita prefecture, providing that we can secure support from the local community.
Wasabizawa Geothermal Power Plant (Akita prefecture)
Main business operator: Yuzawa Geothermal Corporation
Operation commenced in May 2019
Appi Geothermal Power Plant (Iwate prefecture, under construction)
Main business operator: Appi Geothermal Energy Corporation
Operation scheduled to commence in April 2024
We have a long history of generating hydroelectric power, dating back to 1898, when we built seven hydroelectric power plants in Akita prefecture, for the purpose of supplying enough power to run Osarizawa Mine (opened as a gold mine, later operated as a copper mine, closed in 1978) and homes in the local area. We were compensated for one of those power plants when a dam was built and the plant was submerged in 2000. The remaining six however are still operating today, selling all of the power that they generate to a power company. Since 2014, we have successfully completed upgrades at three hydroelectric power plants, in an effort to deal with aging facilities. We also completed updates at Oyu Hydroelectric Power Plant (Kazuno) in March 2018. In addition, in May 2019, we began to construct the New Komatagawa Hydroelectric Power Plant in the Komata River, a branch stream of the Ani River in the reservoirs along the Yoneshiro River in Kita-Akita City, Akita since the No. 4 Komatagawa Hydroelectric Power Plant, which was completed in 1953. We are determined to continue securing both stable operations and stable revenue in the future.
In fiscal 2021, the combined total of power generated by all six hydroelectric power plants was 83 GWh. Our operation of hydroelectric power plants effectively reduced CO2 emissions by approx. 40,000 tons.
Komatagawa New Power Plant (Akita prefecture, under construction)
Main business operator: Mitsubishi Materials Corporation
Operation scheduled to commence in December 2022
Having entered the solar power business in 2013, making effective use of idle group land, by 2017 we had built power plants in five locations as part of a joint venture with Mitsubishi UFJ Lease & Finance Company Limited. We are currently operating plants in Makabe (Ibaraki prefecture), Fukui (Fukui prefecture), Torigoe (Fukuoka prefecture), Irigama (Miyagi prefecture), and Yabuki (Fukushima prefecture).In fiscal 2021, the combined total of power generated by all five solar power plants was 29 GWh. The operation of these power plants effectively reduced CO2 emissions, with a 10,000 ton reduction attributable to us, representing our share of the power plants.
Irigama Solar Power Station (Miyagi prefecture)
Main business operator: LM Sun Power CO.,Ltd.
Operation commenced in January 2015
In 2000, Mitsubishi Materials Techno Corporation entered the business of ground-source heat, which is heat from a renewable energy source, as a provider of total engineering solutions. The company has been providing services in the process from project proposal through investigation, design, construction, and maintenance.
The company has continued its R&D efforts and acquired patented technologies through a project commissioned by NEDO and others, aiming to become the No.1 company in geothermal technologies. As a result, the company has succeeded in building infrastructure using ground-source heat by developing commercial systems with various heat exchange methods, including not only the common borehole method but also foundation pile, horizontal, and earth retaining wall methods. At present, Mitsubishi Materials Techno Corporation is promoting sales of these technologies as systems for using ground-source heat utilized through urban infrastructure, aiming to contribute to smart cities in the future.
Approx. 130 systems from the company have been installed. In FY2020, the company completed one of the largest projects in Japan, which combines the borehole method (100 m in depth x 120 boreholes) and the horizontal method (nine approx. 100 m long trenches), at the construction site of the Nishine Hospital of Hachimantai City. It also completed one of the largest projects in the Tokyo metropolitan area, which applied the foundation pile method (66 cast-in-place piles) at the construction site of the new building of Yokohama City Hall. Through these and other projects, the use of ground-source heat is expanding. Moving forward, Mitsubishi Materials Techno Corporation plans to strengthen project proposals with the open loop method, with which groundwater is pumped up directly and used.
At the Mitsubishi Materials Group, we take approach to study how to reduce the CO2 emissions from production activities, by putting to good use the outstanding technologies for assessing underground structures, which we have built up since our foundation, as well as our human resources.
In May 2008, we invested in Japan CCS Co., Ltd., which was established under the leadership of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Through Japan CCS, we are participating in the Large-scale CCS Demonstration Project in Tomakomai and Investigation of Potential Sites for CO2 Storage.