Wind and Water
Focus on renewables
Renewable energies are a pivotal element in the Volkswagen Group’s Strategy 2018. Making the best possible use of renewables requires dedicated concepts for each market. Brazil, for example, offers favorable conditions for the use of hydropower. Volkswagen do Brasil already meets almost one fifth of its electricity requirements from renewables with the Anhanguera power plant, and is also committed to ensuring reliable access to drinking water.
Water is life. But in Brazil, with its numerous rivers and high gradients, water is also a key source of energy. Around 80% of the energy produced in Brazil comes from hydropower. The Volkswagen Group is a significant contributor. The Anhanguera small hydropower plant, built in collaboration with two local partners, went on stream in 2010, and feeds around 100 gigawatt-hours of electricity into the national grid each year. This covers a good 18% of the energy used by the four Brazilian Volkswagen plants. The province of São Joaquim da Barra also draws lasting financial benefits from the hydropower plant, which brings a 25% increase in its annual tax revenues.
“Our long-term aim is to meet up to 80% of our energy requirements from our own sources.”
Eduardo Barros, Head of Legal Affairs and Board Member of Volkswagen do Brasil responsible for sustainability
For Volkswagen do Brasil, Anhanguera is just the start of an ambitious initiative to generate the company’s own green electricity. “Our long-term aim is to meet up to 80% of our energy requirements from our own regenerative sources and protect ourselves against future price increases,” explains Eduardo Barros, Head of Legal Affairs and Board Member of Volkswagen do Brasil responsible for sustainability. Another form of energy that is due to take on a more significant role in the energy mix is wind energy, which has today become the most economical source of energy in Brazil. The potential here is enormous, with recent studies quoting a theoretical total potential of 143 gigawatts.
The company’s sustainable energy strategy is already paying dividends: in 2012 Volkswagen do Brasil became the first automobile manufacturer in Brazil to be given the go-ahead to issue CO2 certificates by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Over a ten-year period, the Volkswagen Group is entitled to sell certificates for a total of around 162 tonnes of CO2 on the open market.
Generating energy in an eco-friendly fashion is part of the global Volkswagen “Think Blue. Factory.” strategy. The solar park at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga (USA), which went on stream in early 2013, is a good example. It generates up to 13,100 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity each year, which is used directly in production, covering 12.5% of the plant’s energy demand at full capacity. The SEAT plant in Martorell (Spain), meanwhile, boasts the largest rooftop solar plant of any automaker, with an annual output capacity of 15,000 MWh of electricity. By 2018 the Volkswagen Group plans to invest around €600 million in photovoltaics, combined heat and power plants, biomass plants and wind farms at its sites around the world.
Implementation of these projects is subject to stringent environmental conditions. Take Brazil, for example: hydropower plants often require large reservoirs, which can mean severe intrusion on nature. As part of its commitment to minimize environmental impacts, Volkswagen do Brasil prefers to focus on small plants, which only require a small reservoir and do not significantly alter the natural water flow. At the Anhanguera small hydro, the impounded water remains in the reservoir for just 24 hours before passing through the three turbines and resuming its course down the Sapucaí River. This eliminates the risk of methane formation associated with lengthy stagnation.
Volkswagen do Brasil operates a comprehensive reforestation program to keep the surrounding ecosystem intact. 116 hectares of varied, species-rich forest has been planted around the reservoir, in place of the former sugar cane monoculture. Upstream of the dam, there is now a 5.8 kilometer greenbelt with more than 100 species of plants and trees. In addition, in close cooperation with experts including scientists from the University of São Paulo, a monitoring and protection program for indigenous fauna has been created that also covers the various life forms in the rivers. On the Sapucai River, a fish ladder has been installed to enable the fish to progress unhindered. The company’s efforts have caused quite a stir in the expert community. At the “Hydro Vision Brasil 2013” conference for hydropower in Latin America, Anhanguera was awarded first prize in the “Ecological Sustainability” category.
€600 million will be invested by the Volkswagen Group in renewable electricity generation at its sites around the world by 2018.
Volkswagen do Brasil’s involvement with water goes beyond its own production operations; the company also builds easy-to-install, maintenance-friendly water pumps that supply free water to nine Brazilian states. Although Brazil has a very high annual rainfall, this is unevenly distributed over the country. Volkswagen do Brasil has so far installed more than 1,000 manually operated pumps as part of the Popular Water Pump initiative, giving 140,000 people access to drinking water, especially during periods of drought. During his visit to Brazil in May 2013, German President Joachim Gauck praised this commitment, and even had a go at turning the wheel of a “bomba d’água popular” himself.
1 – The Anhanguera power plant has an annual output of 100 gigawatt-hours of electricity.
2 – Upstream of the dam, a 5.8 kilometer greenbelt surrounds the reservoir.
3 – Eduardo Barros, Head of Legal Affairs and Board Member of Volkswagen do Brasil responsible for sustainability.