Tom Baker Agricultural Services
Agriculture is an energy-hungry business. The solution for this agribusiness was to transition to solar, and reap the rewards.
Address: 31-33 Gatwick Rd, Bayswater North VIC 3153
Environmental upgrade: 99kW photovoltaic (PV) solar system
Key drivers: Reduce energy costs and improve sustainability of operations
How can a polystyrene manufacturer use solar to save money and operate more sustainably?
Foamex are Australia’s leading suppliers of expanded and extruded polystyrene, creating everything from building products and insulation to shipping and food packaging. Their boxes are even being used to transport and distribute the COVID-19 vaccines, as polystyrene is quick to produce, cost effective, and allows temperature control.
The popular perception of polystyrene might be of single-use items that are quickly sent to landfill, but General Manager Justin Kelsey is trying to change that perception. Much of the product being manufactured has long term use, such as wall insulation, and many of the single-use items are recycled on site. National companies such as Light ‘n’ Easy and Harvey Norman return and recycle product packaging to be made into new products.
“We want to show that there are ways to do these things, such as a closed loop recycling system, that make the product an environmentally sustainable solution for a lot of businesses. Polystyrene is one of the few materials that can be 100% recycled,” says Justin.
As a manufacturer, energy is a high-cost component to what they do. Justin is always looking at measures to strip the high-cost out components of the production process to better operate in a competitive industry.
“To be able to get access to cheap energy through solar allows us to be more competitive on those big government infrastructure projects, which is a lifeblood of what we do,” says Justin.
The business is exploring how to produce their product as sustainably as possible, and one step towards this is reducing the carbon footprint of their electricity consumption.
“Installing solar within our business and rolling it out to the facilities that we manufacture in falls in line with our sustainability measures and the policies that we’re trying to implement,” says Justin. “It’s a good starting point, for us to be able to get access to cheap energy and do the right thing by the environment.”
Foamex worked with national solar installer Cherry Energy Solutions to design and install the 99kW photovoltaic (PV) system for their Bayswater site. The team went for a sub 100-kilowatt system to get an idea of how solar would work for their business, but the system has scalability capacity so they can increase the size in the future.
“The flexibility around that was interesting for us and something that we liked about this finance solution,” says Justin.
As the project has a positive environmental benefit, Foamex were able to access Environmental Upgrade Finance (EUF) through Sustainable Australia Fund, enabled by Maroondah City Council. Scott McKenry from the Eastern Alliance for Greenhouse Action says that the alliance is delighted to see another member council providing access to EUF for businesses in their municipality.
“Maroondah’s partnership with Foamex represents a critical first step in unlocking the potential benefits of cross sector partnerships in the region,” says Scott.
The new solar system at the Bayswater site will reduce their emissions by over 98 tonnes CO2-e per year, which is the equivalent of taking 21 cars off the road.
The system is also expected to knock a huge $18,000 off their energy bill each year.
“It sits off the balance sheet, and keeps our powder dry for future investments in infrastructure and machinery upgrades,” says Justin. “That was a pretty attractive component to this finance.”
“As a business owner, I think it’s a no-brainer.”
– Justin Kelsey, General Manager, Foamex Group