When we know better, we do better – Narrowtex’s sustainability journey

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Established South African textile company Narrowtex initially reduced the energy consumption at its Estcourt plant by 157 732 Kilowatt hours (kWh) with an overall investment of about R80 000. It subsequently went on to install the first phase of its Solar PV plant, all through the technical support of the National Cleaner Production Centre South Africa (NCPC-SA). 

In 2019 Narrowtex began its sustainability journey with the dual objective of reducing its carbon equivalent emissions and becoming less reliant on grid power. Narrowtex underwent an energy assessment and almost immediately implemented the quick-win items, which resulted in significant energy savings. 

Production Manager Michael Stander takes the time to reflect on the company’s journey.  “In today’s fast-moving and ever-changing production environment all manufacturing facilities locally and abroad are looking at sustainability and ‘doing things better’ for the environment and to assist the bottom line.

“I was first introduced to the concept of resource efficiency under the guidance of Andre Page, Project Manager NCPC-SA, in Cape Town, and quickly realised the importance of all South African production plants being able to identify their ‘waste streams’. Equally critical is being able to understand the plant’s energy usage and quantify its consumption, to enable them to produce smarter and reduce energy costs,” says Stander.

When I started at Narrowtex, a company that produces narrow woven textiles, one of my first objectives was to identify and quantify the energy consumption of the facility. We engaged with NCPC-SA KZN Project Manager Milisha Pillay and under the auspices of the Industrial Energy Efficiency Project received fully subsidised assistance in the form of an energy assessment. 

“We then went on to implement eight energy efficiency improvements as recommended, which slightly reduced our baseload consumption, and through the NCPC-SA went on to investigate the feasibility of a Solar PV system to become more self-sufficient and further reduce our operating costs,” Stander continues.

“The projects that were implemented included the reduction of standing losses on machinery through improved insulation, installing geyser timers as well as motion sensors in locker rooms and a LED lighting retrofit programme.

“The payback period for the renewable energy project became more attractive once the energy efficiency improvements were made, and Narrowtex General Manager Chris Fell decided to commission the first phase of the Solar PV plant in March 2021.  

“The installed Solar PV system is showing great returns so far. The company has consumed approximately 21.5% less electricity, based on the August 2019 year to date figure. We are still working on changing behavioural patterns (related to electricity use) and shift patterns within the plant to maximise the benefit from the system.

“Phase 2 is planned for the near future and will result in us being able to generate enough electricity to meet approximately 60% of the facility’s current daytime energy requirements. The final phase of the installation should take us up to 80% off-grid during daytime operating hours,” says Stander.

“As Narrowtex Group we are very pleased with the outcome achieved by engaging with the NCPC-SA, not only for our Energy Efficiency and Solar PV Projects, but also for the next steps in our low carbon journey and to continue our commitment to operate in the best and most environmentally-friendly way possible. 

“People’s involvement in this journey is critical, as management cannot do it alone as  — you must have the understanding and buy-in from all employees within the organisation if you want to succeed,” Stander concludes.

The NCPC-SA is available to advise and support your company on its sustainability journey.  To get more information visit: www.ncpc.co.za or email: [email protected] to start the journey today. 

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