Many wait on politicians to sort out renewable energy production. Suston meets with three outdoor brands and retailers that, through their own wind and solar initiatives, are already leading the way.

Elan – The sunny valley

Since its start in 1945, the Slovenian ski manufacturer Elan has been located in Begunje na Gorenjskem, a small village in the Eastern Alps. The landscape and nature around has always shaped and inspired the company – with mountains offering perfect winter sport conditions and nearby forests supplying the wood for skis and snowboards. Now, Elan will also benefit from the many hours of sun that shines over the valley where its headquarters and production facilities are situated: This year, 2,500 solar panels have been installed on the 5,000 sqm roof surface, generating more than 1,000 MWh a year.

Having already switched to 100% renewable energy, Elan now added another milestone: partial energy self-sufficiency. The panels will provide around 12% of the the company’s annual energy needs and help to reduce annual emissions by around 500 tonnes of CO2.

“Our work is closely intertwined with nature and sustainability is part of our DNA,” says brand director Melanja Korošec.

“Elan has committed to increase energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the core business. In this regard, setting up its own power plant is a logical strategic move.”

To realize the construction, Elan cooperated with the Slovenia-based energy company Interenergo, which is even taking care of installation, maintenance, and competitive supply of Renewable Energy Source (RES) energy.

“As energy production isn’t our core business, it was important for us to have a competent and experienced partner in this field,” explains Melanja Korošec.

She points out that the company’s commitment on renewable energy remains an extra cost and must be seen as an investment for the future.

“In the long run, this will make our operations more sustainable. Even from an economical point of view.”

For the environment, the power-plant already pays off, providing the equivalent of 15,000 trees worth of carbon emission savings on an annual basis.

“This reaffirms Elan’s commitment and it continues to lead by example in its industry and the region,” concludes Melanja Korošec.

Elan solar panels (Credit: Elan)

Hestra – The Småland spirit

Already in 2010, the Swedish glove manufacturer Hestra teamed up with around 30 companies in its home region to form the co-operative Egen Kraft (Swedish for “own power”) to jointly invest in wind energy. Hestra’s CFO Charlotte Carlsson became a board member of the entity that today owns three windparks across southern Sweden and facilitated the installation of solar panels at some of the company’s sites.

“It was actually my grandfather who convinced us to make this investment. He was always thinking long term,” says Hestra’s CEO Anton Magnusson.

“Now, our 3% share in Egen Kraft corresponds to 550,000 KWh, which is approximately the yearly consumption of our headquarter.”

In addition to the windpower engagement, Hestra has installed solar panels at its own production sites in Vietnam and China that cover up to 15% of the factories’ energy consumption.

“Weather conditions in these countries require energy-intensive air conditioning to make the work environment pleasant. At the same time, the many sun hours are optimal to produce solar energy to directly cover a part of our consumption,” says Hestra’s sustainability manager Marie Rudenvall.

Like Elan’s Melanja Korošec, Marie Rudenvall describes the energy production facilities as a long-term investment that will become profitable as soon as its costs are amortized. According to her, the Egen Kraft co-operative says a lot about the region where Hestra is located:

“Småland is known for a particular economic spirit and entrepreneurship, a fondness of good calculating and saving resources. But also for helping each other and cooperating where needed. Producing wind and solar energy together is in many ways a ‘Smålandish’ decision.”

Hestra’s solar powered factory in China (Credit: Hestra)

Bergzeit – The Bavarian Lighthouse

German mountain sport retailer Bergzeit has found its own way to contribute to a green energy revolution. The company from Otterfing near Munich is not only producing renewable energy for its own warehouse but also providing electricity to employees, neighbors, partners and customers.

“When expanding our logistic buildings in 2020, we installed a photovoltaic system of 1,370 solar on the roofs,” says Holger Cecco-Stark, head of CSR at Bergzeit.

“For our own consumption, it would have been enough with half that size. But we decided to directly cover the whole accessible area of around 6,000 square metres.”

Today, half of the approximately 550,000 kWh solar energy produced by Bergzeit’s panels is consumed by the company itself, while the surplus can be used by any interested consumer. Here, Bergzeit cooperates with the local collective EWS (Elektrizitätswerke Schönau), a well-established provider of renewable energy with roots in the 1980s anti-nuclear-movement.

“We started offering ‘Bergzeit Strom’ to our own employees via EWS and are now even addressing external customers and partners,” says Holger.

Even if the full-scale photovoltaic system “may not be the most economical” investment, according to the CSR manager, it plays an important role in Bergzeit’s climate strategy by contributing to the reduction of CO2 emissions. At the same time, it is an important beacon project for the industry, the region and beyond. As Holger Cecco-Stark explains:

“We want to encourage others to go our way and contribute to a greener electricity pool.”

Bergzeit’s solar roof (Credit: @cecco-stark)


Lead Image: Hestra, partially-owned wind power production.

Philipp Olsmeyer
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