Free Engineer - Blog Post

How Renewable Energy is Helping to Power Australia’s Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of local manufacturing when it comes to medical supplies, such as face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). Being able to sustainably produce these items locally ensures a consistent supply – particularly in times of high demand. One great example of this is Softmed, a Campbellfield, Victoria-based surgical-grade face mask manufacturer.

In 2020, Softmed spent more than $30 million expanding its manufacturing capabilities, including a new state-of-the-art factory. Its new factory has the capability to make at least 240 million face masks a year. With 3,500-square-metres of roof now at its disposal and rising energy costs – as well as operational continuity – to contend with, a commercial solar panel solution was a crucial business investment.

Free Engineer and Softmed: partnering to sustainably power production of face masks

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia faced a massive shortage of PPE. This resulted in much-needed masks, including N95 respirators, being sourced from overseas. This is problematic from a quality (of products), sustainability, and self-sufficiency perspective.

Seeing an opportunity, Softmed invested significantly in expanding its production capabilities. While producing PPE – at volume – to meet Australian standards of quality was vital, remaining price-competitive in a global market and reducing their carbon footprint were key goals.

Achieving energy cost reduction with commercial solar

Organisations with high-energy needs, such as Softmed and many others in manufacturing, have felt the pinch of Australia’s continually rising energy costs the most. This is why they choose to invest in commercial solar or energy storage as a way to reduce their ongoing energy costs.

Manufacturing businesses typically have the largest areas of roof space, which means they’re primed to reap the biggest rewards from solar energy capture. As part of Softmed’s renovation, they have 3,500-square-metres of roof space that’s now being utilised by solar panels. It’s estimated they’ll see a significant reduction in their energy bill, achieving a maximum cost reduction from sustainable commercial solar energy.

Striving towards carbon footprint reduction and more sustainable manufacturing

The medical supplies and PPE industry is one that presently has few local competitors. Additionally, government contracts are highly sought-after. This means that any competitive edge can have a huge impact on an organisation’s financial success. Climate change is also an issue that’s dominating political and social discourse. Therefore, Softmed’s decision to invest in reducing its carbon footprint – through commercial solar – highlights its commitment to more sustainable manufacturing and the environment.

Free Engineer – specialist commercial solar engineers and advisors

Softmed’s rapid and ambitious expansion project, involving the installation of commercial solar panels and battery storage, required engineering expertise and attention to detail. This is where Free Engineer stepped in. A bespoke commercial solar engineering and advisory group, Free Engineer provided expert technical advice, project services and trusted installers. Thus making sure this medical PPE manufacturer was up-and-running, and producing vital supplies to help combat Australia’s response to COVID-19.

Want to discover more about commercial solar or battery storage? Get in touch with the Free Engineer team today.

Posted on Feb 22, 2021

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