Solar energy at Kwikot plant
Solar energy system at the Electrolux Kwikot geyser manufacturing plant

Electrolux South Africa has embarked on a journey to exit the national electricity grid and move to renewable solar energy, cutting the organisation’s carbon footprint at its local Kwikot water heater (geyser) manufacturing plant by 40%.

Lead engineer at Electrolux South Africa, Ughard de Clercq said the organisation was expected to complete the development of a major 1MW solar energy system at its Benoni factory by November 2021. The company has invested R16 million in the solar system which it started building in July 2021.

“We plan to be climate neutral by 2030 in all our manufacturing operations. So far, we have implemented a 112kWp solar system for our offices in 2020 and have saved over 96 tons of CO2 just this year. We expect that the 1MW solar system will reduce our manufacturing CO2 footprint by 40%,” said de Clercq.

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Once completed, the solar system will comprise 1,278 solar panels that will power the factory during the day, supplying as much as 80 to 90% of the plant’s energy requirements. According to de Clercq, the organisation also intended to explore the possibility of purchasing renewable energy from Eskom to meet its nighttime electricity requirements when the parastatal is ready to offer privately produced green energy as an option.

“We did not develop more than one megawatt due to the roof space and current regulations limiting the amount of electricity generated via a solar system, but the government is looking to increase it,” de Clercq added. When limits were increased to 100MW or more, Electrolux would also investigate extending its solar system so that it could sell power back to the electricity grid.

“If the local law and infrastructure allow it, we would want to sell the excess green electricity back into the grid. We would like to be able to make a contribution to other organisations by supplying them with green energy,” he said.

A move to solar energy and other clean energy sources to achieve “better living”

Electrolux would likely also explore installing smaller solar energy systems at its geyser distribution centres around South Africa.

“We plan in the next two to three years to start reducing the consumption of our fossil fuels by switching from diesel to electric forklifts that can be charged by our solar system,” said de Clercq.

“We are also investigating how to reduce our water consumption in the future by harvesting the rainwater to reduce our environmental impact even further.”

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This latest investment in solar energy at its local factory was part of the organisation’s global strategy to achieve its “better living” 2030 goal of zero carbon emissions partially by using renewable energy in production. The investment also follows similar solar systems installed at the company’s plants in China, Thailand and Australia.

Electrolux South Africa’s Managing Director, Murray Crow commented: “We strive not only to manufacture sustainable products such as our appliances but to manufacture them in a sustainable way. It is important to look after the environment and do our part for future generations to come.”