Cleantech
Volvo Production Plant Achieves Carbon Neutrality

Volvo Construction Equipment’s Braås site in southern Sweden has become its first carbon-neutral facility and is claimed to be the first construction equipment production plant in the world run entirely on renewables.

The 45,000 m2 site, which specializes in the design and manufacture of articulated haulers, is now powered entirely by renewable energy sources — including wind, biomass and hydropower.

The move follows in the footsteps of sister company Volvo Trucks, whose Ghent facility set the standard for emissions-free industrial manufacturing in 2007.

“As one of our core values, environmental care informs everything we do at Volvo,” says Niklas Nillroth, Volvo CE’s VP of Core Value Management & CSR. “So we are extremely proud that the Volvo Group is leading the way, not just in one industry, but two.”

Braås’ first step towards carbon neutrality began in 1999, when it commissioned local energy supplier Växjö Energi AB to install a district heating plant, fuelled by wood chips, to provide central heating for its employees and the town’s residents. Braås then joined a Volvo Group initiative in 2007 that saw it switch to green electricity.

"Locals and the site’s 1,000 employees put pressure on Växjö Energi AB to run the district heating plant on biomass only."

These first two initiatives cut the site’s level of CO2 neutrality by 87 percent in 2008. The final push to reach 100 percent began two years ago: Acccording to Volvo, staff identified the greatest source of energy consumption as the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) burners, which were used to heat the rust protection treatment ovens to 60°C. These were replaced from September 2013 with district heating. The burners in the component paint shop, which reach temperatures of 120°C, were also altered to electrical heating. In addition, the site’s diesel forklifts were substituted with electric models.

Meanwhile, locals and the site’s 1,000 employees put pressure on Växjö Energi AB to run the district heating plant on biomass only — regular oil had previously also been used during peak times and maintenance.

Volvo says the next step is to focus more on energy saving activities in particular, reducing the idling consumption at the site. One initiative will involve recycling waste heat from the treatment ovens and burners and using it to heat the buildings.

In other carbon-neutrality news, last fall Microsoft announced it had achieved carbon-neutrality after the introduction of an internal carbon fee for renewable energy and carbon offsets, which led the tech giant to increase its purchase of green energy in the US by 70 percent in 2012. And Lego Group announced in December that it had partnered with WWF to improve its performance on a range of environmental priorities and committed to becoming not only carbon-neutral, but net positive, through the use of 100 percent renewables by 2016.

This post first appeared on the 2degrees blog on January 21, 2014.

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