SOLAR THERMAL ENERGY

Pushing Diversity to
Achieve a Common Goal

TEKNION AS A COPORATION SETS AMBITIOUS, UNIVERSAL TARGETS FOR REDUCING ITS ENERGY CONSUMPTION as it relates to natural gas, water, electricity, waste and carbon. But with regional facilities each having their own unique sets of needs and challenges, how do they go about meeting these objectives? Doug Hietkamp, Director of Sustainable Development Programs at Teknion, explains Teknion’s policy in this regard: “We really encourage local initiative. Each facility understands their issues the best, so we give them the freedom to determine how they reach their targets.”

One of Teknion’s manufacturing facilities in Montmagny, Quebec, is a case in point. André Dufresne, Plant Manager for Teknion Quebec, outlines the challenge when it comes to energy reduction. “We were using propane as an energy source in this facility so the challenge for us was, ‘How do you find a green technology that makes financial sense?’” One approach was solar thermal panels, but at first glance this route was proving to be cost prohibitive. However, opportunity presented itself in the form of a government agency dedicated to maximizing energy efficiency in Quebec. In partnership with Teknion the agency invested in a solar heat recovery system that would help Teknion reduce the facility’s carbon footprint and at the same time meet its financial objectives. Investing in this technology would enable Teknion to divert 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the environment every year. The life expectancy of the system is 20 years, which translates into 1,000 tonnes of CO2 diverted from the atmosphere.

This solar recovery system is installed on the roof of Teknion Quebec’s manufacturing facility. It is comprised of 2,000 square feet of wall solar collectors and 3,000 square feet of roof solar collectors and is proof positive that solar energy can be harnessed in northern latitudes, not just southern ones. Transferring heat from the sun enables the plant to be comfortable even on the most frigid of winter days.

“We’ve become what we behold. First we shape our tools, and then our tools shape us.”

- Marshall Mcluhan

This solar thermal system is one the most efficient ways of transferring energy. Dufresne expands, “We only go through one transition from sun to air. What defines this system is its simplicity: the sun heats the panels, the panels heat the air in the passage between them and the air flows warm through the passage directly into the facility. This process represents a very efficient transfer of energy, with absolutely no impact on the environment.”

With this solar thermal recovery system in place in Quebec, Hietkamp outlines Teknion’s longer term objectives. “Our strategy of relying on local initiative and creativity to advance our sustainability goals has proven to be successful. Because of initiatives like the solar thermal project, we have managed to exceed our goal of reducing our propane usage and greenhouse gases by more than 20 percent over the past six years. But we certainly can’t stop here. Our process is continuous and constantly evolving. We will push further and expand our objectives, supported by the right mix of local effort and corporate commitment.”

Perspective Gained: Sustainability initiatives can come together when resources from different sectors share common goals of reducing environmental impacts.