Hydro Extrusions is a major worldwide manufacturer of tailored aluminum profiles for a wide range of industries, from building and construction to automotive, transportation, electronic, maritime, and beyond. In Europe alone, the company operates 40 plants across 16 countries—making it the largest extruder on the continent.
In response to demands from sustainability-minded customers, Hydro has ambitious plans to reduce its own emissions by 30% in 2030 and become a net-zero company by 2050. One of the ways the company is working toward this goal is through multiple projects that are ongoing at all Hydro locations aimed at switching to renewable energy sources. Some of those projects focus on purchasing renewable electricity, while others concentrate on the site generating its own production of renewable energy. A few of the projects that were announced for extrusion operations in Europe and North America are presented here.
Hydro Extrusions in Offenburg, Germany, has two extrusion lines along with extensive possibilities for mechanical fabrication and surface treatment capabilities, such as a fully automated anodizing line. For security reasons, the plant is surrounded by a fence to prevent unauthorized people from entering the area. In collaboration with the renewable energy company Hydro Rein, Hydro Extrusions is working to convert this 426 m long fence that will be able to contribute to lowering the emissions of the plant.
“Every step matters on the path to zero emissions,” said Hubert Ronecker, managing director at the extrusion plant in Offenburg. “The energy consumption at an extrusion plant is significant. The solar fence is a small contribution compared to our total energy consumption, but clearly shows that Hydro is finding new solutions where possible.”
The first of its kind in Germany, the solar fence is a photovoltaic system that will produce 85 MWh annually. Installing photovoltaic solar panels on both sides of the fence will enable it to catch as much light as possible. Although the 90° angle of the panels is less efficient than open field and rooftop installations (which are tilted in the optimal angle towards the sun), the fence presents an unused surface that can be used to contribute to the energy of the plant.
The solar fence is supplied by the German company Next2Sun, which is also a customer of Hydro Extrusions. The frames and structure of the solar fence contain Hydro REDUXA low-carbon aluminum (primary aluminum made with renewable energy), which is extruded inside the factory in Offenburg.
The solar fence project is expected to be completed by early December. Next year, the plant is also planning to install a battery energy storage system and photovoltaic solar panels on the roof top of the factory building to reduce emissions even further.
Hydro Extrusions installed a new 8-inch extrusion press at its plant in Trzcianka, Poland. The new press is designed to be highly efficient with an energy saving hydraulic system and is expected to have 8% lower electricity consumption compared to the existing 7-inch press at the plant.
To power this new press, Hydro Extrusions announced it would invest €5 million in a new photovoltaic power system, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. Once it starts operation, the solar park will produce 7.5 GWh/year to power the new 8 inch extrusion press.
Since the Polish electricity grid mix is dominated by coal, the solar park will have a dramatic impact on the plant’s carbon footprint. This will reduce the carbon footprint of the extrusion process from an average of 0.68 kg CO2/kg Al down to around 0.14 kg CO2/kg Al, including emissions from electricity, gas, diesel, and heating energy (note, average emissions based on the European Aluminium Environmental Report 2018). In addition, the new solar park will help the company in combating the dramatically increased electricity prices in Europe.
“This investment is a big step for our Polish operations in supporting Hydro’s climate target of reducing direct greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030,” said Mauro Spizzo, vice president of the Eastern Europe region in Hydro Extrusions. “With the solar park in place, our customers get access to aluminum profiles which have been extruded with a minimal environmental impact.”
In Sweden, Hydro operates four plants, covering the full range of the extrusion process, from casting to extrusion, fabrication, and surface treatment. The company recently announced that it would shift to 100% locally produced, renewable power for its operations in Sweden, including its three extrusion plants in Sweden, located in Finspång, Sjunnen, and Vetlanda, and its casthouse in Sjunnen (Figure). The company will make strategic, large scale investments in various renewable energy measures at each location.
In the project’s first phase, Hydro Extrusions will install solar panels and battery storage systems to complement the already existing local hydropower system. The company is also working to identify a suitable location for its own wind farm, which will have the potential to be quickly expanded. It is also considering the use of batteries to balance the power grid and switching fuel use to hydrogen made from renewable energy. Additionally, the company is considering energy efficiency measures (such as heat exchange from already existing processes) within its facilities. The initial phases of the project will enable these facilities to achieve near-zero emissions, according to GHG Protocol Scope 1 and 2.
“We call it Greener Sweden,” said Paul Warton, executive vice president of Hydro Extrusions. “We don’t do one plant, we do Sweden. The hydrogen we develop to run the furnace in our casthouse will not be just scaled to serve our own needs; it will be scaled for the industrial environment in the region. We will be a supplier of zero-carbon hydrogen to the region. We are starting to shape the industrial society, not just our own facilities.”
It is important to Hydro that these projects benefit not only its own facilities, but the local region in general. “We are continuously reducing our emissions and recycling more scrap, but this is not enough. The next step is to bring in more green energy from the local area,” said Jonas Bjuhr, managing director Hydro Extrusions Sweden. “In order to counteract the climate crisis and do more with less, you need several different initiatives on a wide scale.”
Spanish Fork, UT
Hydro’s facility in Spanish Fork, Utah, is an integrated extrusion facility. It includes on-site billet casting that allows the plant to produce unique custom blends of aluminum alloy for customers with specific performance requirements.
In July 2022, Hydro signed an eight-year agreement with the City of Spanish Fork and the Utah Municipal Power Agency to procure electricity from two recently completed photovoltaic solar installations. The power agreement enables Hydro’s extrusion facility in Spanish Fork, UT, to use 100% of renewable electricity.
The Spanish Fork plant is the first of Hydro’s U.S. sites to achieve this milestone. However, it is not the company’s first in North America. Hydro’s extrusion facility in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, Canada, utilizes 100% hydroelectric power.
At its facility in Cressona, Pennsylvania, Hydro plans to also source its entire electrical needs from renewable energy. This will be achieved through the completion of a new solar field in first half 2023, continuing the company’s strategy of moving toward renewable energy within its facilities.