Toyota says solar too expensive for local manufacturers

Toyota Australia might consider covering its manufacturing facilities in solar panels — like Renault is doing in France – if renewable energy technology was cheaper.

French car manufacturer Renault is undertaking the largest solar project in the history of the automotive industry, installing solar panels on the roofs of all of its French production plants.

Some 450,000m2 of solar panels are needed for the project, covering an area equivalent to 63 football fields.

Toyota Australia manager environmental policy – Jon Ward, says though solar is an effective means of generating renewable energy, solar panels are still too expensive to be commercially-viable.

“There is no question that solar can be effective in generating significant quantities of energy if the area is large enough, however the cost per megawatt hour of solar is still very high, even compared to other renewables such as wind,” he told Manufacturers’ Monthly.  

“The challenge industry faces is how to make renewables commercially viable given their current costs. This is on-going work and in the meantime Toyota Australia will continue to focus on energy efficiency to improve our carbon intensity.”  

In France, Renault hopes to generate 60 MW of power per year using the solar panels, which is the equivalent annual electricity consumption of a town with a population of 15,000.

Renault plans to reduce its carbon footprint by 10% by 2013 and by a further 10% between 2013 and 2016. The solar panel project aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 30,000 tonnes a year.

Toyota Australia is also committed to reducing manufacturing emissions, setting itself a challenge to reach zero emissions throughout all of its business.

Ward says Renault’s solar power plan, though expensive, is still an important part of raising awareness of emissions reduction and the measures available to companies.

“It is important for companies to show environmental leadership by demonstrating what is possible,” Ward told MM.

“Toyota Australia for example will shortly commission a TriGen turbine at our corporate HQ to produce electricity, heating and cooling from gas and reduce our carbon footprint by 25%.  

“This is on top of the 22% reduction in CO2 per vehicle in manufacturing from 2000 and 26% reduction achieved at our corporate HQ already from 2005/06.”

Still, solar is undoubtedly becoming more of a viable solution for some Australians, with local manufacturer SilexSolar raising output by 30% to cater for demand.

A new solar facility is also being constructed in Queensland, and Australia recently signed a MoU with Germany to jointly-develop solar technologies.

Image: Renault’s planned solar manufacturing facilities.

What are some other, cheaper ways Aussie manufacturers can reduce their emissions? Comment below or on Twitter @manmonthly.