The largest thermal power plant in France avoids emitting as much CO2 as 1000 cars

Making malt is not that complicated. But producing this indispensable raw material for beer in a sustainable way is quite another story. You need a lot of heat to do this. To this end, the Boortmalt malting plant in Issoudun (central France) has commissioned the largest solar thermal installation in the country. The system provides 10% of the plant’s heating needs. Boortmalt aims to reduce CO2 emissions caused by its global activities by at least 50% by 2030. Thanks in part to this system, France is one step closer to its goal of becoming the first carbon-neutral state in Europe.

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The maltster has made it a priority to reduce its carbon footprint. Reducing energy consumption and emissions is one of Boortmalt’s four main sustainability goals, along with water conservation, sustainable agriculture and health and safety issues.

A year ago, Boortmalt built a solar thermal power plant on its Issoudun site. One of the most advanced maltings is located there. Extending over an area of ​​14,252 m2 and as far as heat capacity is concerned, it is the largest plant of its kind.

This solar thermal power plant project was the winner of the 2018 call for tenders “Large-scale solar thermal power plants”, organized by ADEME, the French Agency for Ecological Transition (Environment and Energy Management Agency)). The objective of the initiative is to promote the search for alternative energy solutions.

For several years, Boortmalt has been investing in alternative energy sources to reduce CO2 emissions and limit the use of fossil fuels. This is done, among other things, with cogeneration plants (CHP). A biomass plant was already commissioned in 2013. “This is where residual products from the malting plant are burned,” explains Tim Fievez, plant manager of the Issoudun malting plant.

Heat

“From the outside, our thermal system looks a lot like a traditional system with solar panels,” says Fievez. “But the water runs through these panels. In fact, we do not produce electricity, but we heat water. We don’t use this hot water right away. We use it to heat the air we use in our processes.

The plant generates 8.5 GWh of renewable, low-carbon heat per year, which represents around 10% of the malting plant’s needs. This installation prevents the annual release of 2,100 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, ie the annual equivalent of the emissions of more than a thousand cars. Thanks to this new installation, 50% of the heat required to operate the malting plant now comes from renewable sources. This proportion is expected to increase further in the years to come.

According to Fievez, the system meets the company’s expectations. “We are in the center of France. The sun shines here often enough to keep the system running. We have already met the CO2 first-year reduction targets. In this regard, it does what we expected. Our goal is to reduce CO2 emissions and possibly achieve CO2 neutrality in the future.

Next Generation UE

The corona crisis is one of the biggest challenges of our time. The European Union, through NextGenerationEU – the largest recovery plan ever with 806.9 billion euros – aims to help its member states come out of the crisis stronger. The Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) is at the heart of this plan (723.8 billion euros).

The RRF has two objectives: first, to pull the European economy out of the recession caused by the corona pandemic. At the same time, it aims to give impetus to major forward-looking investments and measures to roll out reforms.

The original deadline to submit a plan was April 30, 2021, but that date has since been pushed back to June 2022. Currently, 26 out of 27 member countries have submitted a plan. The plans require member states to dedicate at least 37% of their budget to climate action and 20% to digitalisation.

Less dependence on gas

Thanks to the project, Boortmalt is also less dependent on gas. It’s certainly more urgent than ever right now given the war in Ukraine. “Thanks to this project, we don’t need to use our gas burner as much. The solar panels work mainly during the sunny months, spring, summer and autumn. Its energy efficiency is very limited in winter. So you can’t just replace your gas burner with solar thermal panels. This is because you may not have enough heat production in the winter.

The Boortmalt Group is a subsidiary of Axereal. The large-scale installation of the malting plant is representative of the overall sustainable development strategy adopted by the Axereal group. “We want to increase our profitability, in particular by concentrating on the structuring of our sectors”, specifies Paul-Yves L’Anthoën, CEO of the Axereal group. “Environmentally friendly production, high environmental values, carbon-free sectors and storage of new generation cereals are all themes in which we assume a leading role, and in many other areas as well. Each step towards more sustainable production is one more step to meet the expectations of our customers, and ultimately also those of consumers.

Solar panels that produce hot water.
Solar panels that produce hot water. © Boortmalt

Ambition

There are ambitions to install this type of technology on other sites as well. “We need sun anyway,” says Fievez. “Thus, the technology is particularly suitable for sunny regions. In northern Europe, the system will not work as well because there is simply not enough sun. You’ll have to look at other technologies out there. A great deal of research is carried out within our group to find out which technical solutions make it possible to reduce dependence on traditional fuels as much as possible and to reduce CO2 emissions. All sorts of technologies are explored, ranging from solar panels to geothermal energy and heat pumps. »

Rising energy prices

“At the moment, with the current crisis, it is only becoming more and more relevant. Energy depends on the sun and not on the price of gas or what is happening in Russia. It also offers some price stability , something that gas cannot offer at the moment.”

Government support

Boortmalt points out that alternative energy production projects could be made possible in part thanks to the support of the French government. The Issoudun malting project received a grant of more than 3 million euros.

The Boortmalt solar power plant.  © Boortmalt
The Boortmalt solar power plant. © Boortmalt