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Don’t Just Talk About Energy Efficiency – Act

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Tags: ZeroEmissions, Company, Efficiency

The employees at a Polish ZF plant are voluntarily implementing EU-wide regulations on climate protection and energy efficiency in their plant. The success of their project shows that anyone can effectively contribute to greater environmental protection.
Frank Thoma, March 12, 2019
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Frank Thoma has been corporate editor at ZF since 2011. With a degree in journalism, he has been planning, writing and editing articles for all of the company’s internal, external media.
Remember the “Climate and Energy Package 2020” that the EU Commission approved now more than twelve years ago? It contained three important climate and energy targets, also known as the “20-20-20 targets". Accordingly, the member states of the European Union were supposed to fulfill the below three requirements by 2020:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent compared to the levels of the levels of the 1990s.
  • Generate 20 percent of energy from renewable resources.
  • Increase energy efficiency by 20 percent.
These national government requirements gave employees at the ZF plant in the Polish city of Czestochowa an ambitious idea: Why not implement these important targets on a smaller, more personal level – or even on a plant level? This idea gave birth to the project “The way to achieve Green Plant". Here, more than 2,000 employees produce seatbelt systems for automotive customers. Individual voluntary actions for greater energy efficiency at the location went back as far as 2004, however, what was missing was a concerted action.
A screen in the factory hall, clearly visible to everyone, provides information on a wide variety of energy consumption figures.

Comprehensive approach for more efficient energy use

Comprehensive approach for more efficient energy use

So a project team got right on it by first defining the starting points and actions that would enable the self-defined “20-20-20 target” to be achieved. The management board immediately gave the group the green light. “Our goal was and is to produce our seatbelts in an environmentally-friendly way with as little energy use as possible", explains Facility Supervisor Piotr Warzecha. He heads up the five-person project team, whose members have taken on the new tasks in addition to their actual jobs. In the team, Warzecha himself is responsible for energy and electric problems: “I like working on solutions to increase energy efficiency".

230000
kWh
The ZF plant in Czestochowa saved the above amount of electricity annually by simply replacing old lights with modern LED lighting technology. This amount roughly corresponds to the annual consumption of 60 four-person households.

Using photovoltaics to generate power sustainably

Using photovoltaics to generate power sustainably

In order to increase the percentage of power supplied by renewable energies, the team began to install photovoltaic modules on the hall canopies in 2017. More than 220 panels, each measuring 1.6 x 1 meters, now generate maximum solar power of 60,480 KilowattPeak (kWP). That is the equivalent of five percent of the overall consumption in the plant. Since the second expansion phase for the solar panels was completed in June 2018, Warzecha estimates that they will produce roughly 53,000 kilowatt hours of solar power this year.

2.6
years
is how long it takes for the investment costs associated with the energy-savings actions carried out to amortize.

As early as 2017, the team began drastically reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions. Up to that point, two 500-kilowatt gas heating tanks were used to produce the necessary thermal energy. Warzecha’s team shut down both boilers and switched over to district heating. The procured 1500-kilowatt heat exchanger now offers sufficient reserves even if the plant is expanded. This switch reduced the heating costs by 25 percent, on the one hand; on the other, instead of releasing the malodorous gas generated in the neighboring coke industry as a waste product directly into the atmosphere, the district heating supplier burns it, thus preventing the bad-smelling gas from reaching residents in the area. This is another way the ZF plant is making a small contribution to the well-being of society. “When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we have far exceeded the 20-percent target. In the meantime, we have locally reached zero,” says the hands-on project manager with a smile.
Up to 2017, two 500-kilowatt gas heating tanks were used to produce the necessary thermal energy. Than ZF switched over to district heating. The procured 1500-kilowatt heat exchanger now offers sufficient reserves even if the plant is expanded.

Saving energy with the newest lighting technology

Saving energy with the newest lighting technology

In order to increase energy efficiency, Warzecha’s team examined all the electricity consumers in the plant. One of the most obvious electricity consumers is lighting. Traditional fluorescent tubes were therefore replaced with considerably more energy-saving LED lights that are frequently combined with motion sensors. In the meantime, LED lights are being used in 90 percent of the offices and 55 percent of the production halls and warehouses. Why not more? “We installed modern fluorescent lights in 2013 whose efficiency was roughly in the 75-80 percent range of LEDs. It makes no sense economically to replace them so early on", explains Warzecha. Old lights are still being replaced by LEDs in the warehouse where finished products are stored as well as in the outdoor areas. Simply replacing the lights reduces energy consumption by almost 230,000 kilowatt hours annually. This is roughly the equivalent of power consumed by 60 four-person households annually.
Traditional fluorescent tubes were replaced with considerably more energy-saving LED lights that are additionally combined with motion sensors.

Switching off unnecessary electricity consumers

Switching off unnecessary electricity consumers

The production area also has the potential of saving a lot of energy. Many machines and systems now sport small highly visible green stickers that say “Switch off – Save energy". They remind workers to switch off these machines as soon as no one else is working on them. Another project addressed the entire ventilation system. An intelligent control system now ensures that heating, ventilation and air-conditioning are more consistent. The result is a more stable cooling temperature which reduces energy consumption. Additionally, the intelligent control system leads to more stable processes and more constant operation, which increases the service life of air-conditioning systems and electric installations.
Many machines and systems now sport highly visible green stickers that say “Switch off – Save energy".

The road to the green factory is almost complete

The road to the green factory is almost complete

Though the project team has successfully completed most of their self-assigned duties, optimization efforts are continuing. The efficiency specialists are currently installing a central cooling system as well as handling heat recovery from the compressors. Warzecha is relatively satisfied: “We have achieved two of the three targets and I am confident that we will also meet the 20-percent target regarding the use of renewable energies".

1160
LED lights
illuminate the production halls, warehouses and offices.

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