Route 2030: Solar energy powers B.I.G.’s future
B.I.G. is on course to achieve a zero environmental footprint by 2030. That is right, zero. To make this journey more tangible, we would like to offer you a passenger’s seat from which you will be able to really get up close and immerse yourself in our various sustainability projects. In this edition: Solar energy powers B.I.G.’s future.
The paths of solar energy are being explored more deeply than ever before. The International Renewable Energy Agency reports that in 2022, the world saw the largest increase in renewable energy capacity ever achieved. A total of 295 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy was added globally, resulting in a 9,6% increase in renewable energy stock, thanks in part to the growth of solar and wind energy. Solar energy alone accounted for almost two-thirds of the renewable additions with a record-breaking 192 GW.
At B.I.G., we're committed to walking down the same path. Last year we've successfully completed several solar energy projects in Kruisem, Oostrozebeke, Menen and Komen (Belgium). Approximately 7% of the energy we use at these locations comes from solar panels, totaling 8.597 megawatt hours (MWh) - equivalent to the energy consumption of 2.605 households per year. In addition, we save 1.183 tons of CO2 per year, which is roughly the annual emissions of 117 households. Following this successful deployment, it's time to equip other European sites with state-of-the-art solar energy installations!
In Spain sun never sets
"We recently installed a solar panel system at our Artificial Grass production site in Spain, which is now operational and provides 618 megawatt hours (MWh), equivalent to powering 187 households for a year," proudly says Maxime Vuylsteke, Group Energy Manager. "The installation process only took 2 to 3 months, but the research process and negotiations took about a year. During this time, we investigated various factors, including the technical possibilities and roof covering," Maxime continues.
"The new solar panels in Spain are capable of generating 32% of all required energy, which is high compared to other locations. Other sites are usually more energy-intensive than our site in Spain, and the fact that the solar panels are located in Spain also has an impact. The irradiation is much higher. The sun shines 60% more in Spain compared to Belgium, meaning that the same panel in Spain generates 60% more energy than the same panel in Belgium."
Finding the right balance
Generating 32% of your energy consumption with solar energy is already quite significant. It's all about finding the right balance between energy generation and consumption. "The situation today is that we sometimes generate more energy than we use, which means we have to inject it into the grid. But the more you inject, the less efficient the process becomes," explains Maxime. “Maintaining a proper balance is crucial when it comes to solar energy. You want to ensure that you are generating enough energy to meet your needs, without over-generating and wasting resources. It's a delicate dance, but with the right strategy, it's possible to strike the perfect balance!”
The installation in Spain is just the beginning of a much larger project. The research phase for all European sites is almost complete, and now it's time to turn theoretical knowledge into practical action. "There are always three things that are examined. First, the stability of the roof. Can it support the installation of solar panels? The second is the status of the roof covering. Does it need to be adjusted or replaced before the installation can take place? And third is the screening of the distribution network operator," Maxime continues. "On some sites, for example, investment in the roof covering is necessary, or there may need to be adjustments to the electrical installation before we can proceed with the installation of solar panels. This is not an easy task, but we know which direction to take, and which investments are needed to get solar installations up and running on each European site. Now it's time to make decisions and move forward."
Conquering the world
"I hope that by 2025 we will have completed the installation of solar panels at all our European sites. Once Europe is fully equipped, we will set our sights on other continents, with all the challenges that come with it. From legislative frameworks to climatic conditions. A thorough study will be needed again, with those climatic conditions being a new factor to consider. Just to give an example; our site in Louisiana, Pinnacle Polymers, was recently hit by a hurricane - a devastating blow to all our colleagues and our infrastructure. But that is a fact to take into account when considering a solar panel installation on this site. These are issues we want to study and tackle in the very near future!"