JBT’s Sint Niklaas, Belgium facility is close to completing of one of the company’s most ambitious sustainability projects, with the installation of over 1,000 solar panels that will – once in operation – account for 25% of the 260,000 sq ft center’s total energy usage. The culmination of months of careful planning, the project is part of a large scale move to bring Sint Niklaas, and other, older JBT facilities, in line with JBT’s overall Sustainability strategy for 2020.
JBT’s internal Energy Action Plan falls within the Sustainability strategy and includes substantial work undertaken to reduce heating, fuel and electricity usage at locations such as Sint Niklaas. As part of the plan, older roofing at the site is also being replaced and improved insulation added; an effort which has so far helped bring down Sint Niklaas’ heating costs by approximately $150,000 per year.
“At Sint Niklaas, we are in a very big, but old facility, so over recent years we have been renovating the shell and the roofing, and this has given us the opportunity to also install solar panels,” explains HSE and Facility Manager Jan Vangansbeke. “Here in Sint Niklaas, we are located in a residential area and in that context, we want to carefully consider the surrounding environment and our Corporate Social Responsibility.”
Putting in place a total of 1,048 solar panels, capable of generating a total of 330 KWp or around a quarter of the facility’s total energy consumption per year, involved close communication between all partners from the beginning which ultimately helped deliver extremely good results, according to Vangansbeke.
However, the project was not without its challenges. “We have insulated, steel deck roofs with connecting flexi-panels in between to allow for more natural light, but these posed a danger during installation,” he explains. “What we did was to put in place galvanized mesh wire – as they use in concrete – which was fixed to the roof so the solar panels could be installed and maintained safely.”
Looking ahead, Vangansbeke says JBT will continue to work on the building shell in Sint Niklaas with the remaining, older roofing gradually replaced as part of the overall drive to achieve more sustainable heating and electricity usage at the site. Other future initiatives include the installation of charging stations for electrical vehicles.