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Solahart
Cleaner Production - Energy Efficiency and Waste Minimisation

Olympic Village

Solahart supplied solar units to
the Olympic Village

Besides benefiting the environment by being the world leader in solar hot water systems Solahart has been actively pursuing cleaner production initiatives at its Welshpool WA manufacturing plant particularly in energy efficiency and waste minimisation. It has been achieving significant savings and quality benefits as well as environmental improvements.

Background

Solahart Industries Pty Ltd is the world’s leading manufacturer of solar hot water systems for residential and commercial applications and operates in 70 countries. Its manufacturing facility and headquarters are on 4.2 acres of prime industrial land in Welshpool, Western Australia, and it employs approximately 150 people in WA and 200 worldwide. It markets, distributes and services its products through licensing arrangements with distributors, and sells and services directly in WA. 49% of its sales are to Australia and New Zealand and 51% are exports. The company’s focus is on growing internationally to meet market demand.

In business since 1901, the company has been producing solar hot water systems since the 1950s. Thanks to a commitment to innovation, performance and quality, Solahart has become a household name in Australia and has achieved wide market acceptance internationally. Since 1998 it has been part of the International Water Heater Group of Southcorp Limited.

Solahart produces a variety of systems for various customer needs, situations, environments and climates, hot and cold, sunny and less sunny. Its product range consists of various types and sizes of collector panels and storage tanks designed for heating water directly or via closed loop systems and heat exchangers. It produces systems for solar only or for preheating or supplementing gas heating systems; also heat pump systems generating cool air for air conditioning. It also designs and manufactures special systems for commercial and other applications, and was selected to supply specially-designed high usage systems for the Olympic Village in Sydney.

Having an environmental product, the company has for long been committed to environmental improvement and achieving savings in waste and energy costs, and in 1996 signed up to the Greenhouse Challenge and subsequently won the Banksia Environmental Award for energy improvements, and the WA Industrial Energy Efficiency Award in 1999. This commitment has driven the initiatives described in this case. Being committed to high standards of performance and quality in manufacture and product the company has achieved accreditations in these areas. As the only hot water system manufacturer with Australian Standards accreditation AS2712, it was the only supplier authorised for inclusion in the Commonwealth Renewable Energy Rebate System applied to hot water systems . To meet increased demand the company  increased production in early 2001 from 120 to 170 systems a day.

The process

       Solahart’s manufacturing and associated processes consist of the following:

Spot welding machine

Collector panel spot welding machine line

Electroplating baths

Electroplating baths

Enameling HWS tanks

Enameling HWS tanks

Effluents from the electroplating and enameling processes go to a new wastewater treatment plant installed by Solahart to ensure compliance with trade effluent discharge limits, reduce discharge costs, and achieve water and materials savings.

 

Wastewater treatment plant

Wastewater treatment plant

The processes use natural gas energy in the boiler and furnaces, and electrical energy in machinery, and equipment, compressed air tools, and lighting. Water is used in plating, enameling, effluent treatment, and for general domestic purposes.

Besides the metal and plastic components, production materials used include plating chemicals, powder coating, enamel, polyurethane and packaging materials. Non-production materials include lubricants and treatment chemicals.

Solid wastes include packaging waste (eg cardboard and pallets), metallic wastes from fabrication and from quality rejects, and scrap metal and other waste from Solahart hot water systems recycled in WA and returned to the factory.

Cleaner production initiatives

The cleaner production initiatives have been designed to address the above energy and waste issues.

Energy Efficiency

The first round of energy saving initiatives took place over the period 1994 to 1996.

Energy saving opportunities were first identified. A Shop Energy Management Team was formed to examine ways of reducing costs resulting from excessive energy usage. This team consisted of factory supervisors and employees with specialist knowledge and was chaired by the General Manager. Information on energy usage was then gathered by researching historic data, identifying all items of plant and equipment consuming energy, and conducting energy audits. Energy use was measured and ranked. Of the 162 items of equipment identified , the top 20 items consumed 20% of the energy costs of the site.

Improvement initiatives included

Advantages of the process

Costs, energy savings and greenhouse gas reductions from the various energy initiatives have been as follows:

Initiative

Cost $

Current daily energy use

Estimated

Energy savings %

Reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions

t/year

1994-96

       

Compressed air

Negligible

2812 KWh

10

80.7

Factory lights

Negligible

906 KWh

10

26

440 ton press

15,000

175 KWh

5

2.3

Boiler- chrome line

- degreasers

500 total

28.8 GJ gas

6.3 GJ gas

20 total

130

22.9

1996-2000

       

Main burner (enamel system)

163,000

43.9 GJ gas

45

447

Boiler –chrome (Hexifloats)

7295

28.8 GJ gas

20

130

Chrome rectifier

Nil

2095 KWh

15

82

Phosphate line

95,000

0.2 GJ gas

172KWh elect

75

78

2.6

35

Direct financial benefits from the energy savings have been modest. However, since the main initiatives have allowed productivity improvements, the overall business benefits have been much greater than suggested by the simple energy payback analysis.

The waste minimisation initiatives have not resulted in significant pay back while the effluent treatment plant involved major costs. Together, however, they have demonstrated Solahart to be an environmental responsible company and in the latter case improved its relations with the regulatory authorities and reinforced its licence to operate.

Cleaner production incentives

The overall driver for Solahart’s Cleaner Production initiatives has been the company’s commitment to improvement in all it does. Specific drivers have been achieving improved efficiency, productivity, cost savings, and commitment to the Greenhouse Challenge.

The drivers for the waste minimisation measures have been environmental commitment and improved regulatory compliance, with some savings in trade effluent and waste disposal costs. For some recycled materials, such as magnesium, customers willing to pay have been found.

Barriers

No significant barriers have been encountered in these initiatives provide a clear business case has been made.

Further developments

Solahart is in the process of developing a formal environmental management system and is aiming for ISO 14001 certification.

Further initiatives being considered include:

Contact

Tony Mendes
Solahart Industries. Pty Ltd
112 Pilbara Street
Welshpool
WA 6106
Ph: 61 8 9458 6211
Fax: 61 8 9458 7640
Email: solahart@solahart.com.au
          Web site: www.solahart.com.au
Date of implementation: 1996 -2001
Date of further initiatives: Ongoing.
Case study prepared: May/June 2001 by Centre of Excellence in Cleaner production, Curtin University of Technology
Date last modified: June 2001.