Interview: Özge Çağıl Sütçü
Ekoten, which designs quality fabrics used in many production areas from technical textiles to sportswear, from military products to medical textiles, commissioned the Solar Power Plant (SPP) in 2019. As of 2022, the company obtained approximately 40% of the annual energy needs of the knitting factory from the solar power plant. It also prevented an average of 800 tonnes of carbon emissions annually.
Ekoten Tekstil was established in 1995 and is one of the largest textile export companies in Turkey. Ekoten operates its activities since 2000 under the Sun Group of Companies and continues its activities with an innovative production approach that is sensitive to nature and the environment.
Ekoten designs high quality fabrics used in many production areas from technical textiles to sportswear, from military products to medical textiles, and produces them using the latest methods and high technologies. Ekoten develops innovative inventions to consume fewer resources; thus investing in sustainable technologies and continuing to work against the increase in greenhouse gas impact, one of the most important problems of today.
As Tekstil Teknoloji Magazine, we interviewed with İshak Aydın Öztürk, General Manager of Ekoten, for our December “Solar Power Plant” (SPP) special file. Explaining Ekoten’s investment plans, technology targets, SPP installation process and benefits, Öztürk talked about the measures they have taken against increasing energy consumption and the measures that sector stakeholders should take. Here are the highlights of our interview:
“One of the Biggest Environmental Problems of the Era is the Increasing Greenhouse Gas Effect”
When did you start working on the Solar Power Plant and how did you come up with this idea?
As an environmentally conscious company, we always plan our corporate strategies based on sustainability principles, as we believe that creating a better future is only possible through sustainability. Utilizing clean energy sources has been among our goals for a long time, as we apply this approach, which is indispensable to our corporate culture, from a holistic perspective. As you know, the increase in the greenhouse gas effect in the atmosphere caused by carbon dioxide from fossil resources in electricity generation is one of the biggest environmental problems of our age.
In addition, the fact that energy costs have increased significantly in the world and in our country following the global energy crises has also played a role in this decision. Therefore, as a result of the analyzes we made in 2018, the fact that solar energy is renewable, sustainable and abundant among renewable energy sources, and that its installation cost is economic than others and its operation and maintenance costs are the lowest, led us to make our choice in this direction, and we started working to use solar energy in our new knitting factory. In mid-2019, we commissioned our 1.2 mWh SPP.
“We will balance the use of mains power with I-REC certification by 2030”
Could you tell us about your solar power plant installation process? Were there any issues that challenged you in this process? If so, at which stage were these difficulties experienced, and how was a solution found?
The installation process was completed successfully in 8–10 months as a result of the work we carried out with a consulting company. On 20.06.2019, after the provisional acceptance was realized, it was commissioned on 02.07.2019 with the approval of Türkiye Elektrik Dağıtım A.Ş. In this process, we did not have any difficulties, we can say that we achieved our goal in a very smooth way. Between 2020 and 2022, we balanced all of our electricity consumption from the grid with I-REC certified 100% renewable energy sources. In this way, we have zeroed our indirect greenhouse gas emissions caused by imported energy according to the ISO 14064-2019 Standard. As Ekoten, we are committed to balance all our mains power use with I-REC certification by 2030.
“We obtained approximately 40% of the annual energy need of our knitting factory from our solar power plant”
Have you started to get returns from the solar power plant? Could you make an evaluation in terms of efficiency and cost? What are the results you expect from the SPP by the end of the year?
We have started to receive positive feedback since the installation of the solar power plant. In 2018, we moved our knitting business to our factory building, which we established with a new investment in order to increase capacity. The solar energy system, which is specially installed on the roof of the facility for our knitting facility and consists of 4320 solar panels, has the capacity to operate 300 machines by providing 1200 kwh of electricity. When we first installed our solar energy system, it met our energy needs by 40–45%. When we first installed our solar energy system, it met our energy needs by 40–45%. As of 2022, we obtained approximately 40% of the annual energy need of our knitting factory from our solar power plant. Although energy production varies seasonally, we can say that up to 50% coverage is achieved in the summer months. With the increase in the number of machines as a result of the investments made, it currently meets approximately 30-32%. In terms of environmental impact, we prevent an average of 800 tons of CO2 emissions annually thanks to GES. In terms of cost, our annual earnings vary according to changing energy prices. According to our current calculations, we anticipate that our initial investment cost will be fully repaid by the end of 2023.
Could you give information about the advantages and disadvantages, if any?
The fact that we are now using renewable and sustainable clean energy allows us to save resources and reduce costs. In addition to all the environmental and financial advantages that using solar energy brings to both our company and society, we are very happy that there are no disadvantages.
“We Continue R&D Activities Continuously”
Does your company have sustainable activities for the coming periods? Does your company have new R&D projects or sustainable investments on its agenda?
Yes, sustainable activities are always on our agenda as they form the basis of our company policy. Operational excellence is very important for our company. As we adopt the principle of continuous improvement in our corporate culture, we continue to carry out efficient and sustainable activities, investments and R&D studies continuously.
The textile industry is a sector where water and energy consumption is quite high. As a company that uses SPPs, how do you evaluate the situation of the sector?
The need for water and energy is very high in the textile sector, so the consumption is also high. In order to sustain the textile industry in the future, all production activities must be environmentally sensitive. Activities that harm nature and the environment must be prevented; unregistered water and energy consumption must be stopped as soon as possible. This is the case for all industrial sectors that have an impact on the environment. As humanity, we need to realize what we can do for the environment in terms of the climate crisis. I believe that the right technologies and optimization practices that will increase efficiency while reducing energy consumption, as we do, should become widespread in the sector. Serious measures must be taken both in the use of natural resources and waste management.
This is what we do as a company; we work to ensure sustainability in all our operations. We act with an approach that considers future generations and cares about nature. Our aim is to contribute to the transformation of the fashion and textile industry with our innovations and the latest technologies we use with our fabrics produced with sustainable materials and methods. We accept it as our responsibility to develop new methods for more sustainable fabric production. We believe that we can only solve the current and future problems of the industry by creating a permanent solution. In this respect, we attach great importance to digitalization, operational excellence, business ethics and environmental awareness.
“We Established the World’s First 1 Million Euro Wastewater Recovery Facility in 2022”
Do you have anything to add or emphasize about textile sector upcoming period?
As an environmentally conscious company, we are always looking for innovative and sustainable textile solutions. In order to further protect our water resources that give life to our world, we completed the installation of our wastewater recovery facility, the first in the world with an investment of 1 million euros in 2022. We aim to recover 95% of our wastewater thanks to the facility, which has innovative treatment technology and whose effectiveness has been approved by authorized independent organizations.
At the same time, with the belief that sustainable change is possible through technology, we have switched to 3D design at Ekoten to increase efficiency and reduce waste in the fashion design process. Through our digitalization practices, we aim to increase the productivity and effectiveness of our sustainable design and production processes. We invest in sustainable technologies by developing innovative inventions to use better options as production methods and consume fewer resources. While doing so, we measure and evaluate the results we achieve and strive for continuous improvement. In general, there is a need for all systems built or installed across the sector to be integrated with Industry 4.0 and continuously measured. Only in this way can we find quick solutions to the problems we face. Because measuring means knowing, knowing means managing and managing means improving. I believe that the steps we take by adopting this principle will greatly contribute to the increase in our efficiency and sustainability.
Considering the increasing costs and environmental impacts, we invite all industry stakeholders to adopt the principle of sustainability and act together in an environmentally sensitive manner towards a better tomorrow, to use clean energy resources, to optimize their energy and water consumption, to use energy efficiently, and most importantly, to be sensitive to both the environment and society.