Flex Deploys Solar Panels at Austrian Facility
Flex’s manufacturing plant and innovation center in Althofen, Austria helps generate new product ideas, along with manufacturing a range of energy and medical industry devices. Now the plant also generates up to a megawatt of solar electricity per year. Erich Dörflinger, Flex Vice President of High Reliability Solutions Operations in Europe, and General Manager of the Althofen plant, is a strong proponent of renewable energy and environmental initiatives.
Dörflinger previously connected the Althofen facility to a community heating program which dropped CO2 emissions by 80 tonnes annually. The plant uses waste heat from air compressors to generate hot water at the facility, and operates a recycling center for electronic scrap. The facility even has a 2,000 square meter flower meadow to provide a welcoming home for local honeybees.
But that wasn’t quite enough. Dörflinger wanted to take advantage of the large roof covering the 17,000 m2 facility to support green energy projects. He reached out to the Austrian government, and connected with Kärnten Solar, which offered the opportunity to support sustainable energy and provide a solid investment opportunity for Flex employees.
Peter Kaiser, the Governor of the Austrian state of Carinthia, noted that this project promotes sustainability, green energy, employee satisfaction and responsibility for the next generation. Kärnten Solar works with local governments in partnership to deploy solar plants using small private investors. In this case, the Austrian government backed the capital outlay and bonds required to deploy nearly 4,000 panels, which can generate up to a 1,000 kW of energy annually, equivalent to the energy use of 350 homes.
Flex employees bought into individual panels through the program, for amounts starting as low as 500 € depending on the number of panels. Once construction was completed, investors started earning 3.2% interest, tax-free on their investment for the next 13 years. This provides a generous rate of return at a time of zero to negative interest rates around the globe.
“This was a win-win for Flex and our employees - we were able to help the community, improve the environment and offer our employees an attractive investment opportunity,” noted Paul Baldassari, Flex’s chief human resources officer. Baldassari noted that he was proud to participate in the investment himself.
This project is the largest power-plant in Austria to date funded entirely by employees. By utilizing existing buildings as a site for the solar panels, this deployment is even more ecologically compatible than a solar plant built on undeveloped land.
“Flex embraces opportunities to show responsibility with CSER programs in social areas and with environmental protection,” said Dörflinger, “and I’m very happy I was able to share this opportunity with our employees.”