Energy for the future

The Doors Division is making progress with regard to renewable energy. Two new state-of-the-art biomass combined heat and power plants at Prüm and Garant will provide more sustainable heat and electricity in the future by means of cogeneration. The plants will cover around half of the electricity requirements of the two sites and 100% of the heat requirements. The plants will be fuelled with residual production materials – i.e. wood waste – from the door production facilities. Horst Lichter, General Manager Technology in the Doors Division, explains how this clever solution contributes to climate protection in this interview.

Mr Lichter, as General Manager Technology you are responsible for the two new biomass combined heat and power (CHP) plants at Prüm and Garant. Why did Arbonia decide to invest in two new plants at these sites?

HL: The new, highly efficient biomass CHP plants will take over from the existing facilities. Furthermore, they will replace the smaller, decentralised systems previously used to heat the sites – including the heating oil installations. After 30 years of operation, the old heating systems were in need of modernisation. At the same time, updates to the German Technical Instructions on Air Quality Control (“TA Luft”) meant that the existing facilities needed to be modernised in order to meet the emissions requirements for certain air pollutants. We therefore got to work straight away designing the two plants for Prüm and Garant, adapting the size of the plants to the planned growth for each company. For Prüm, this was primarily based on the size of the new production halls; in the case of Garant, the old heating systems were too small. So we knew we needed to build larger plants, and we also wanted to tie this in with our climate targets.

Can you explain the technology to us?

Of course. A biomass CHP plant uses biomass as fuel. By burning our production waste, such as wood dust and uncontaminated, shredded wood-based materials, we can produce steam at a very high pressure. This steam is then used in subsequent processes to heat the halls and presses and to generate electricity via a steam turbine. Using the steam in multiple ways like this is known as “cogeneration” or “combined heat and power”, which is very energy-efficient. At the same time, we have the positive side effect that our wood waste – which we previously had to dispose of at significant expense – can now be used to generate energy.

What does this have to do with sustainability?

By recycling our wood waste, not only are we reducing our need for external biomass sources, we are also preventing the release of greenhouse gases which would be produced if the wood waste were burned or left to decompose without energy recovery. Furthermore, the wood waste no longer needs to be transported over 150 kilometres via lorry for disposal, which also cuts down on emissions.

How does this fit in with Arbonia’s general environmental targets and its commitment to climate protection?

We at Arbonia support the Paris Climate Agreement. With this in mind, we intend to reduce the intensity of our emissions substantially by 2035. In the Doors Division, once the new plants have been completed we will be able to cover 100% of our heat requirements at Prüm and Garant with energy that we produce ourselves. Furthermore, we want to keep increasing the proportion of electricity that is generated in-house – to this end, we are combining the biomass CHP plants with our own photovoltaic systems. Once the two new plants are up and running, we will have no further need of heating oil and will be able to do without fossil energy sources. For Arbonia, the construction of the two biomass combined heat and power plants represents an investment in the future that will pay off in the long term, as well as a major contribution to sustainability and, hence, climate protection.

What challenges did you have to deal with along the way?

The planning and implementation phases involved a number of challenges due to the complexity of the project and the number of people involved. However, through meticulous planning and close collaboration with our technical teams, we were able to overcome these challenges. We commissioned the plant at Prüm at the end of 2023, and the Garant plant will be completed in 2025.

How have the local communities around the Prüm and Garant production plants responded to the use of wood waste for energy production?

The response has been very positive. The local people appreciate the fact that we are using state-of-the-art flue gas filter technology to help improve the air quality. Furthermore, with the plant at Prüm, we are already able to feed our unused electricity into the grid and cover some of the energy requirements of nearby companies. The plants are running 24 / 7 – but we only make doors five days a week, which means that we can feed the electricity generated at weekends into the grid. The compensation we receive for this weekend electricity covers the costs of operating the plant. A further advantage for us is that these plants allow us to save on CO2 taxes.

Is Arbonia planning to integrate further sustainable solutions into its business model?

The success of these plants will serve as a foundation for future efforts. At Arbonia, we are always actively looking for opportunities to increase our resource efficiency, reduce waste and further minimise our environmental impact. For us, sustainability is an ongoing process rather than just a target, and we are committed to continuous improvement and innovation. We want to use the experience we have gained at Prüm and Garant in other parts of the company too. For example, we are currently working on strategic plans for photovoltaic systems and renewable energy sources at Invado and RWD Schlatter.

Biomass combined heat and power plants
With consumption of 40 000 tonnes of wood or other biomass, a CHP plant in the 5 MW class will generate around 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 50 million kilowatt hours of heat per year. In terms of its operating principle, a power plant of this kind works in the same way as a coal-fired power station.