Mitsubishi Corp intends to take part in one of the world’s largest solar thermal projects as a result of buying into a subsidiary of Spanish renewable energy giant Acciona SA.

The Japanese trading house has reached an agreement to take a 15% interest in the Acciona unit. It will acquire the shares for slightly more than 5 billion yen by the end of this month. Mitsubishi formed a comprehensive tie-up in renewable energy with Acciona in 2009, under which they now jointly operate a photovoltaic plant in Portugal.

Mitsubishi’s intention is to jointly operate solar thermal facilities with the Acciona unit and also offer financial support for capital investment.

The Acciona unit had built three solar thermal plants in Spain by the end of last year, with a fourth scheduled for completion this autumn. Each plant has a capacity of 50 MW, 200 MW in total. The total cost of the operations is estimated at 1 billion euros, or roughly 113 billion yen. The Spanish government is contracted to buy all the generated power over a period of more than 25 years.

Mitsubishi will also partner with Mizuho Corporate Bank, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, and the Development Bank of Japan to make a combined 300 million euro loan to the Acciona unit for capital investment. The government-backed Nippon Export and Investment Insurance will provide loan insurance.

To date, its domestic PV panel manufacturers have contributed to Japan’s edge in photovoltaic technology, while European companies have a lead in the solar thermal segment. With Mitsubishi and others moving into this area, Japanese parts makers will benefit from opportunities to supply mirrors, tubes and other components.