GEFCO has installed solar panels on its vehicles compound in Switzerland.
Not only is this new model green, it is also a sustainable economic and societal performance that delivers lasting value for its clients, employees and stakeholders.
Interview with Denis Igert, General Manager of GEFCO Switzerland, who has been leading this innovation and turned it into reality.
Could you describe the solar power canopy that GEFCO Switzerland has installed on its vehicle compound?
GEFCO set up a solar plant on its 78,000sqm vehicle compound which stores more than 3,000 vehicles.
The compound is in Courgenay, Switzerland, in the Canton of Jura. The plant is composed of 23,886 photovoltaic panels, covering 43,000 square meters. This is equivalent to six and a half football fields. The photovoltaic site in Courgenay, with its capacity of 6.7 MWp, is the most powerful site in Switzerland and is able to cover the annual electricity needs for 1,550 households.
It is the result of a partnership between GEFCO Switzerland and Swiss energy producers: EDJ Energy of Jura and BKW.
This “green model” allows the GEFCO site to power itself for heating and lighting the park (by LED and with motion sensors). Finally, the solar panels are waterproof and the water is also collected. The use of rain water will allow us to save on the current water purification facility, which removes minerals through reverse osmosis (especially limestone) and obtain a better water quality.
Thanks to this integrated solution, GEFCO Switzerland reduces CO2 emissions by 2,400 tons per year or the equivalent of 2,400 PARIS – NEW YORK return trips by plane!
What are the main benefits for our automotive clients besides the improvement of the carbon footprint?
First, the park is covered and waterproof. This is protecting the vehicles from bad weather conditions, and from hailstones. Damages have been considerably reduced through this protection.
This has enabled us to design innovating services:
- Some of the energy generated by these solar panels is used on-site, to recharge electric cars. Leading car manufacturers are already using this new service.
- Water is becoming an increasingly "precious" commodity. We are going to collect the rainwater from the large area covered by the photovoltaic cover, mainly for car washing. Thanks to our new installation, the water will be much softer, making it possible to offer our customers an environmentally friendly and superior quality wash.
Finally, we are planning to double the capacity of the park by building a second floor.
Our innovative "green" vehicle storage solution is therefore very competitive compared to a standard storage solution.
"Alone we go faster, together we go further!"
With this quote, as of 2018, we will strengthen our innovative power by implementing a partnership with a university research laboratory dedicated to the storage of the electrical energy produced.
What are the main societal benefits for your employees?
At GEFCO, we are committed to invest in people and their environment. With this innovative solution, we have improved the working conditions of our employees in a sustainable way. It is important to note that the spaces for the vehicles as well as the access paths are covered by solar panels. Our employees are working in a more comfortable environment. Vehicle access times are optimized regardless of weather conditions: during winter, with snow or frost or during summer with high temperatures. We have increased the quality of life at work and productivity. The employees are happier and therefore more efficient for our customers!
Such a project requires outstanding energy. How did you empower your teams?
The installation of photovoltaic panels on our fleet is truly part of GEFCO's CSR orientation, which aims to make our solutions ever more agile and competitive while reducing our carbon footprint and strengthening our societal footprint. The model developed in Switzerland proves that associating economic, societal and ecological performance is possible and sustainable. All employees, regardless of their function, were involved in bringing the project to life which allowed us to increase the project power by the tenfold. Within 2 years the site was operational and the activity was never disrupted. We managed to provide the same quality of service to our customers at all times! We are all proud to have imagined and put into production an eco-responsible and future solution with our partners EDJ Energy du Jura and BKW. As pilot of the Group, we are working with the all the operational and GMS (General Management System) Managements to make other projects within GEFCO possible.
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