Tony Klausner, managing director of Spiess Australia Smallgoods, explains why the company, which specialises in air-dried meat products,switched to solar power.
A 100 kilowatt commercial solar energy system was installed in April by Sun Connect to power Spiess Australia’s 4000 square-metre, small goods production plant, an hour west of Sydney.
Innovation and long-term sustainability are top priorities in the running of Spiess Australia. The installation of solar power to run our manufacturing plant ticked both of these boxes.
Spiess Australia began its operation in 1996 under the supervision of our parent company Spiess Schiers AG in Switzerland – a company with over 105 years of experience in smallgoods production. We have remained at the forefront of smallgoods production through continuous investments in innovative manufacturing techniques. Switching to solar power and installing a 100 kilowatt commercial energy system to power our production plant here in Australia was in keeping with this.
However, most importantly, our research in adopting solar energy showed it was worth the investment – foremost because it made economic sense – but also for many other reasons.
To begin, solar power has a tried and proven track record in manufacturing businesses overseas. Solar energy was already giving many international companies a competitive advantage. If large corporations, like IKEA and Toyota, install solar systems in much cloudier countries around the world, surely Australia is a more than appropriate candidate for utilising solar power. We have an abundance of sunlight here in Australia and with Spiess Australia being so reliant on refrigeration and electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the switch to using clean and abundant energy from the sun during the day made sense.
The switch to solar power would also help to turn a profit for our prosciutto and smallgoods manufacturing. Our main impetus was to turn environmental and social responsibilities into a valuable asset to our business. The decision to embrace solar technology proved economically viable for the business’s bottom line. The cost benefit analysis showed a reduction in our electricity costs of about 22 percent and a depreciable asset in the balance sheet.
Solar installation would also provide protection against electricity price hikes. Not only would Spiess Australia save many thousands of dollars in the future, it will reduce our exposure to future electricity price rises.
Finally, there were also environmental benefits due to the reduction of greenhouse gases emitted from our manufacturing. It gives us a great deal of pride to own one of the largest private solar installations in NSW. The community and our customers recognise us as a sustainably-managed Small to Medium Enterprise (SME).
We don’t know of any other company that can offer its customers carbon neutral, Australian-made smallgoods.
Installing solar power is a long-term sustainable and profitable investment for us at Spiess Australia. I would recommend it to similar food manufacturing businesses that are reliant on steady electricity consumption, as the way forward.
If you’re interested in making the switch to solar, the following tips should help:
- Own your building. A commercial solar installation adds value to your building by reducing your energy and running costs. A building with its own solar energy system is likely to fetch higher re-sale or leasing prices.
- Orientation of your building and sunlight makes a difference. It’s important that your building has no shade and that your rooftop has ample access to sunlight.
- Use all the electricity produced by your solar system for your own business. By not feeding electricity back into the grid, you do not depend on government policy and set tariffs. You know what you get and can calculate returns independent of government policy.
- Do your research and only used a reputable commercial energy company. We used the services of Sun Connect, a multi-award winning commercial-grade solar panel design and installation company.
- Price alone should not be a driver. The quality and longevity of the solar panels should be a priority. Installing a solar system should be a long-term proposition. A quality commercial-grade solar panel should last 25 years. Granted, you don't have to wait 25 years for a return, it should start returning you dividends from year one, but you want to receive a return for 25 years – so with that in mind, don't be fooled into looking at a cheap system, because you'll get a cheap return from that.
- Make the most of your solar energy system, it's a cost benefit and is good for your brand. And of course, Use electricity wisely to ensure you are conserving energy as well as generating your own energy.