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Generating solar power and pride

Atlas Copco is investing heavily in solar panels to provide the power for our most energy-demanding manufacturing and logistics sites. Solar panels now cover the rooftops of major facilities in Rock Hill, South Carolina; Chakan, India; and Hoeselt, Belgium.

workers at a renewable energy plan, young asian engineers  working in  solar power station.

India led the way. Since March 2018, the Chakan plant has been powered with solar cells covering about a third of the factory roof. About 80% of the energy used now comes from this renewable source, reducing the carbon dioxide emissions by 600 tons annually.

Energy autonomy is a big plus in India where a stable power supply can be a challenge. The plant can now work all day without any service interruption. 

But the solar power doesn’t only cover the plant’s needs. When the facility is closed the solar panels still generate green energy to the grid that can be used by the community and other companies in the area.

Since then Atlas Copco Airpower in Antwerp, Belgium, and Power Technique’s product company in Rock Hill, U.S., have both installed solar energy to help power the plants. Both projects were initiated in 2018 and finalized roughly one year later.

The investments have brought both financial and environmental benefits.

“Belgium has a high percentage of renewable energy in the grid already, but we saw a potential to produce our own energy at a relatively low cost, and leave the renewable energy in the grid available for other users. Along with the environmental impact, this project has a nice payback period, due to savings in energy purchases,” said Lars Pelckmans, SHEQ Manager for the Portable Air and Power Technique Service Division.

Power Technique’s product company in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in the U.S., had the same approach. The primary motivation was environmental, to save 600 tons of CO₂ per year.

The 3 200 solar panels on top of the portable air production site in Antwerp, Belgium take up the space of 2.5 soccer fields. Energy production started in October 2019, and has already resulted in significant CO2 savings.

“We decided to make the installation on top of the portable air production site, since this is Airpower’s biggest roof. It was important that the building was strong enough to hold the extra weight of the 3 200 solar panels. As the roof was 25 years old, we decided to first renovate it to avoid future problems. We then only needed three months to install the solar panels, and in October 2019 we started up our own solar energy production,” said Lars Pelckmans.

Another important aspect of the projects is pride generated amongst the employees.

In Rock Hill, the realtime performance is shown on a dashboard display in the main lobby. It shows the amount of energy saved by using the solar array, the CO₂ offset, equivalence to miles driven and monthly power generation.

At Airpower, employees can see data about the positive environmental impact on information screens in rest areas and at the entrance, and the feedback has been positive.

“I am proud to work for a company that is concerned about the environment. We all need to contribute to reduce our impact and this kind of initiative can help. It’s a win-win situation, as we also generate our own energy and become more independent,” says Liesbeth Van de Wiele, Global Project Leader Business Processes, Airpower.