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FELCO - Responsibility: FELCO invests in solar power

In 2009, solar panels were mounted to the roof of the Company's premises in Geneveys-sur-Coffrane. This installation serves to demonstrate FELCO's awareness of the environment, which is also extended to their economic pragmatism. Report.

In 2005, FELCO began two significant expansion projects at their production plant. The outcome: the two old boilers now produce the hot water supplied to the older parts of the buildings. Consequently, they are are far too large for such a task. These two beasts can supply 125 (the smaller boiler) and 210 (the larger boiler) liters when supplied with 10 kilowatts of power!

Pierre-Olivier Matile, the Safety, Health and Environmental Manager, therefore pondered the idea of replacing these boilers with a more environmentally-friendly system. A research consultancy was commissioned and was given the task of finding a "good way" of producing hot water. The idea of solar power immediately came to light.

Solar panels with an electrical back-up system

Research tests demonstrate that, over the time period of a year, solar energy can supply 56% of the energy required to heat water. An additional energy source is therefore required. Electric or gas? Electric was chosen owing to its greater return on investment.

In practical terms, six solar panels were mounted to the roof in June 2009, covering a surface area of just over 12 square meters. They heat a 1,000 liter tank, which is connected to the water system. Inside this tank, electrical resistance can be activated if required. Hot water is always available. Environmentally-friendly measures are not implemented at the expense of the users, states Pierre-Olivier.

Economic pragmatism and traditional values

Although not prohibitive, this environmental measure has a cost which cannot be ignored. No doubt about it, a more economically beneficial choice could have been made. The choice to go all electric could have been made. However, cost is not amongst the Company's policies and the choice to use solar energy is real proof of FELCO's commitment to continue progressing "both from an environmental point of view and in terms of the human perspective as well as safety".

"Over the years, a sense of duty has evolved between FELCO and the people who live in the region", Laurent Perrin confides. "We concentrate on long-term cooperation". This outlook, which also includes economic pragmatism to a certain extent, can be explained if we look at the Company's history, a family-owned business, firmly established in the district of Neuchâtel. "We must emphasize our competitiveness and our profitability", adds Laurent Perrin, CEO of FELCO, "however, with regards to certain aspects, we go well beyond what is legally required as we believe that this attitude forms part of our values". Respect for the environment is one of these aspects, as well as the recruitment of disabled workers.

Pierre-Olivier is no stranger to projects either. He is already working on improving waste-water management, the resulting water when washing the grounds, the machinery and the grinding facilities. 60 tons of waste-water is discarded per year, which is made up of more than 90% water. Currently, it is stored and then taken away each year by a specialist service provider. The concept of using bacteria to separate water from waste is evidently an area of interest and may consequently lead to the installation of a bioreactor...