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Where there is light, there are also shadows. Using the sun’s power to generate energy in northern Germany can present certain challenges. The Hamburg region, with an average of 2,252 hours of sunlight per year, is not exactly known as a sunny hotspot in Germany. The 700 photovoltaic modules 32 meters above ground on the roof of the tesa campus in Norderstedt have to offer a certain amount of resistance so they don’t end up gone with the wind. Starting in the summer of 2023, these modules will contribute to energy supply.
It’s a well-known fact that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush – or on the roof. This applies to the new facility’s potential yield as well. Only a surface area of 1,400 m² on the campus roofs can be used for the installation of solar panels. Though the total area of the tesa roofs is naturally much larger, there are already a number of other structures on the buildings. Ventilation systems and other equipment make it difficult to install more solar panels since they would generate too much shade for the panels to function. But a place in the sun was found above the tesa Research and Technology center.
For tesa, each kilowatt hour of power that the company can generate itself counts. At all plants in Asia, Europe and North America, photovoltaic systems are already in use (in Suzhou, China), are being installed, or are in the project phase. Planning for the tesa headquarters outside the Hamburg city gates began in 2021. To keep the wind from sending the environmentally-friendly technology flying over the roofs of Norderstedt during the next storm, the experts required a bit of finesse: “The suction forces on the edges of the building are so strong that the modules need to be held down with additional weight. What’s more, the roofs are covered in greenery, so the usual method of fastening them from below isn’t possible. We consulted with structural engineers, and in the end we found a customized solution,” reports Tilo Tonn, Head of technical building management.
In the context of sustainability, the bird in the hand represents every effort to save energy and avoid the use of fossil fuels. The photovoltaics (PV) on the top of tesa’s headquarters cover only 3% of the current energy consumption on the campus. Still, the expected 230,000 kilowatt hours per year are very welcome. This is enough to keep the ventilation system in the technology center running for an entire year, for example – and it is only one of many ways to save energy and reduce costs, according to energy manager Thomas Erfurth. He finds that, despite such seemingly low numbers, PV represents an exciting prospect in economic terms. Incidentally, if tesa Norderstedt wanted to switch completely to the sunny side, the company would need to install 50,000 m² of solar modules, the equivalent of seven soccer fields.
The switch to clean energy sources is a goal of tesa’s sustainability strategy. Since the German sites in particular use great amounts of steam and heat, they must make an extra effort. Where it cannot generate electricity internally, tesa has for years purchased exclusively green energy. In collaboration with factory representatives, additional steps are being taken for energy security – to contribute to the energy revolution as well as sustainability strategy goals. tesa wants its operations to be climate neutral by 2030. Its focus is on the use of green energy and optimized efficiency in production as well as at all other facilities where tesa is stationed. The trick here, as almost everywhere, is to balance the three important parameters of sustainability, availability and cost. Our goal for 2030 is very ambitious. “We understand ‘climate-neutral production’ to mean an actual reduction in emissions and the use of fully green energy. We will only compensate for emissions that cannot be avoided in the short and medium term with high-quality certificates,” report the tesa energy experts.
The birds in the bush are far off and hard to get to – much like all the leaves and dust their fine-feathered friends leave up on the solar modules every day. In the future, a cleaning team will climb to the sunny top of tesa in Norderstedt once a year. The panels must be kept clean so they can soak up as much sun as possible. As far as this “dark side” of the technology is concerned, a dirty little bird on the roof would certainly be easier to care for than two in the bush.
For more than a year, the tesa plant in Suzhou, China, has been working on various levels to reduce its environmental footprint along the entire value chain. In 2021, a photovoltaic system was installed at the site. The 2,000 solar panels, on a roof area of 7,000 square meters, enable savings of around 610 t of CO2 annually compared to conventional power generation.