TOKYO -- Mitsubishi Rayon will soon start making carbon fiber parts for wind power turbines through a European joint venture, aiming to step up its involvement in this form of alternative energy.
The Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings unit will invest 49% in the venture. Danish concern Fiberline Composites, which sells turbine blade components to wind power companies across Europe, will take a 51% interest. The venture will be established in October and headquartered in Denmark.
Mitsubishi Rayon has been doing business with Fiberline as a carbon fiber supplier. The companies will now jointly develop and produce parts through the venture. Making carbon fiber parts at plants in the U.S., China and elsewhere will be considered later. Sales of 10 billion yen ($98.2 million) are targeted for the joint venture in fiscal 2020.
Getting more power out of each wind turbine is a must for aiding the technology's spread. This involves making the devices larger with lighter materials. Manufacturers are thus switching to carbon fiber components from traditional fiberglass parts. The planned components of the Mitsubishi-Fiberline venture will weigh up to 20% less than conventional options.
Demand for carbon fiber by the wind power industry is seen rising to around 26,000 tons by 2020 or so -- on a par with the automotive sector. In reinforcing the carbon fiber supply chain, Mitsubishi Rayon aims to make catering to the industry a new key business.
Partnerships are increasingly common between producers of carbon fiber and downstream companies that turn it into higher-order composites. Teijin, a competitor to Mitsubishi Rayon, said in mid-September that it would acquire a U.S. autoparts supplier for $825 million. This coordination lets manufacturers respond more nimbly to demand from customers farther down the line, such as wind turbine builders and car companies.