Portuguese plant works 100% with solar energy

Portuguese plant works 100% with solar energy

13/06/2016 source “DN”

The factory of office, geriatric, hospital, school and hotel furniture of Lordelo, Paredes (Portugal), is the first in the world to achieve depending only on itself to have energy resources.

Exactly 1485 solar panels, capable of producing, each 400 kilowatts per hour, make of Wood One a pioneering industry worldwide: it is the first solar energy self-sustaining factory. The company, which about eight years ago almost went on the verge of bankruptcy, is now preparing to grow exponentially with new facilities and new markets.

The investment of nearly two million Euros was sponsored by the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF) and allowed to “increase the billing in 300%”, as recalls Manuel Luís Martins, 52, CEO of Wood One, which began as commercial director in another company until, eight years ago, decided to work on his own.

Once were opened the applications of Portugal 2020 (a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission which joins the performance of the five Structural European and Investment Funds – ERDF, Cohesion Fund, ESF, EAFRD and EMFF – which define the principles of programming enshrining the economic, social and territorial development policy to promote in Portugal between 2014 and 2020, whose programming principles are aligned with the intelligent, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, continuing the Europe 2020 strategy), Wood One had the application prepared and was the first to be approved. This time, 6,3 million Euros were invested in the construction of new facilities of 11,000 square meters and in solar panels, in the purchase of latest generation machines and in the hiring of three dozen employees. “We already have 53 jobs and we will have to hire another ten soon,” announces Manuel Luís Martins, a CEO who is pleased to “give salary increases before they are asked” and “whenever a worker dominates new machines or meets objectives”.

As the proximity of management and workers – the CEO’s office opens directly to the production area – was considered “critical to maintaining a motivated and dedicated team,” the energy self-sufficiency of the factory was a clear need, “Only in electricity we have a monthly bill of seven thousand Euros. The savings with solar energy is more than relevant”, says the CEO, explaining that also wood chips collected in timber cutting machines are utilized to heat the paint ovens and own factory in winter.

“The only thing that got me upset is that the contract [Portugal 2020] does not allow me to donate the energy produced during the weekend when we’re not working. Thinking about the waste upsets me, so I’m thinking about creating energy charging stations for electric vehicles inside the facilities of the company at the weekend, so that the fleets of local authorities can come use free what we produce. Otherwise, we have to turn off the panels not to cause an overloading”, confides the businessman.

This year, Wood One should bill close to six million Euros only in the domestic market. And are looking at two potential contracts in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – one 8,5 million Euros to furnish 325 apartments and another of 25 million Euros to equip a hotel of 40 floors – which can rise the numbers, if not this year, at least in the next. “In 2015 we only exported 20% of the production, this year it will rise to 35%, and if these orders are realized, then the value will be higher,” says the CEO, identifying the UAE, Europe (Spain, France and the United Kingdom), Africa (Angola and Mozambique) as main markets. Russia and Latin America are identified as emerging markets for the company.

With regard to products, office and hospital furniture remains the largest contributor to the turnover of the company (which is one of the usual suppliers of the State), although “the hotel industry is growing quickly to become the segment number one”.