Has been published Wednesday, February 8, 2012 Next »

Seeking Process Energy Savings? Look to the Sun

Lately there’s been a number of companies announcing that they’ve installed solar-power arrays to supplement their high energy needs. And why not? Their plant roofs and properties often cover several football fields-worth of area on which to place solar collectors, and our sun is always freely available (except of course when it's hidden by clouds or the earth’s rotation).


Of course there is the expense of installing a solar panel farm, but stories about the following companies in the USA seem to indicate that the investment can be justified:


  • Toray Plastics (America) Inc., a Rhode Island-based maker of polypropylene and polyester films, completed a $2-million solar farm composed of 1650 photovoltaic (PV) panels; this reportedly generates 65 megawatt-hours per year, replacing a portion of the $20-million of electricity the operation uses annually.
  • In 2011, North Carolina packaging molder Nypro, Inc. reportedly installed a rooftop solar array, plus a wind turbine farm, to help energize its battery of six 200-ton injection presses.
  • Last spring, Pennsylvania-based NewAge Industries Inc., a manufacturer of rubber and plastic tubing, brought online a $4.2-million, 4000-panel solar array to supply about half of its energy needs; this investment reportedly came in addition to the company’s installation of high-efficiency lighting, thicker roof insulation, and a company-wide recycling program.
  • Both being green technologies, recycling and solar power seem to go together naturally. For providing almost half the energy for its California materials recovery facility, RethinkWaste´s Shoreway Environmental Center uses 2700 roof-mounted PV panels, reportedly saving about $2.1 million in energy costs over the next two decades.

Expect more stories like these from around the world, especially as energy concerns and E-savings goals intensify.


Mike Tolinski is the author of Plastics and Sustainability, published in Oct. 2011 by Wiley-Scrivener, and he is Contributing Editor for Plastics Engineering magazine of the Society of Plastics Engineers in the USA. His views have been shaped by his engineering, university, and journalism experience in the plastics and manufacturing industries over the past 21 years.