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Going Solar for the Bigger Picture


At MM Graphia in Izmir, Turkey, a new solar system is providing renewable energy for MM Packaging's largest production plant in Turkey.

When Fuat Polat cut the ribbon on the new thermal energy system on the roof of the MM Graphia plant last April in Izmir, Turkey, he provided a lot of interesting numbers for the crowd. As Managing Director of 500 employees, Polat announced that the investment of three million Euros resulted in a reduction of CO2-emissions at a scale of 3000 tons every year. “It is hard to wrap your head around this figure. But it is easier to understand if you imagine that we are cutting the emissions of 1000 cars a year”, said Polat. All thanks to the power of the sun.

At the MM Graphia plant in Izmir more than seven billion packages pass through the loading docks each year, being shipped to countries worldwide, but also serving the local market: “50 percent of our products are delivered to international customers from Japan to Canada, the remaining half is for local consumption – our plants are operating at maximum capacity”, said Polat.

CO2 Reduction
In order to produce its packaging products, the plant in Izmir has to operate at specific environmental parameters. Temperature and humidity need to be closely regulated, since paper and board products are very sensitive to their surroundings. “Our conventional air-conditioning system used up to 50 percent of the entire energy demand in the production halls and was nearing its end-of-life. This is why we decided three years ago to find a new way for the processes of heating and cooling”, said Polat, who also had a bigger picture in mind: As important customers are demanding increased action in CO2 reduction, suppliers need to follow suit. Additionally, the volatile costs for fossil fuels made the switch to solar power all the more appealing.

The system we had installed on the production facility’s roof consists of parabolic trough collectors with an aperture area of 4,500 m² and a thermal output of more than  3.5 MW peak, as well as a thermal storage system that ensures energy supply beyond the hours of sunshine”, Polat explained. In this region of Turkey, the sun provides up to seven or eight months of heat, enough to cover 80 percent of the plant’s energy demand for heating and cooling. In all of Europe, such a system has never been implemented on an industrial scale of these dimensions – Polat reports of many struggles and technical difficulties, including navigating through the pandemic and supply chain issues.

Role Model
Now that it is up and running, many visitors come to see what MM Graphia was able to achieve. “We became sort of role models for the industry. Recently we even welcomed a delegation from the German consulate at our plant. They were very impressed with what we showed them”, said Polat. According to him, most companies immediately think about photovoltaic production of electric power when it comes to solar. But the use of direct heat from the sun to enable heating and cooling processes still is largely a new concept in the area – even in times of energy shortages.

Polat states that the decision to go solar was not informed by the current energy crisis and subsequent monetary issues: “Long-term thinking was our main motivation. We wanted to be less dependent on conventional energy resources and to reduce our CO2 emissions. We are also already planning on the next step: a photovoltaic system to produce electricity.” With an estimated capacity of one MW it will further diminish MM Graphia’s dependency on fossil fuels.