When Solar Is Strategic

While we’re a long way from solar-powered factories, Ensto Tallinn shows how solar panels can make a contribution.

“Big picture awareness” is the primary reason Tallinn Plant Director Peeter Mõrd gives for installing 124 solar panels on the roof of Ensto’s Tallinn factory.

His second reason was practical: use solar energy to power two Nissan LEAFs which could shuttle employees 43 kilometers between Ensto’s factories in Tallinn and Keila. “The numbers worked out nicely,” says Mõrd, “since the Estonian government was subsidizing the first thousand electric vehicles on the roads.” But just as Ensto was installing its panels, the government pulled the subsidy.

So while Nissan LEAFs aren’t ferrying Ensto workers between the factories, the investment has become more strategic. A 43,000-euro investment purchased 124 panels that produce 27,000 kWh annually. “Factory production is energy intense enough that this covers only one percent of our total energy consumption,“ says Mõrd. “But it will pay for itself in about ten years.”

“Since factory investments are generally expected to pay back in five years, solar is not an easy decision for finance people,” says Mõrd. “But Timo [Luukkainen, Ensto CEO] saw its merits and signed off on it immediately.”

Ensto isn’t alone in this type of strategic investment in solar. “Several years ago ABB installed four times fewer panels with the sole goal of simply powering their office computers,” says Mõrd.

Mõrd also cites the RE100 global initiative to showcase influential companies committed to using 100 percent renewable power. Members include IKEA, H&M, Nike, Procter & Gamble, SAP, Starbucks, Unilever, Vaisala, and Walmart.

“Why not have Ensto on that list?” asks Mõrd. “I think that’s a good challenge.”


Author: Scott Diel