While Proton has yet to roll out electric vehicles, its green credentials has been bolstered with the unveiling of its solar power initiative at its Tanjung Malim plant. Here, the national carmaker hopes to reduce its CO2 emissions by 11,536 tonnes a year alongside generating savings from its utility expenses.

Part of this is what’s claimed to be the country’s largest bi-facial solar panel facility, which covers the 23.4-acre motor pool carpark comprised of 2,880 parking spaces. Used as a transit point for cars produced at the Tanjung Malim production plant prior to distribution to dealers and outlets nationwide, the motor pool carpark is now covered by 20,544 bi-facial solar panels.

Bi-facial solar panels are so named for their design that enables them to harvest solar energy not just from direct sunlight above, but also from solar energy reflected from parked cars an the ground beneath the solar panels, in addition to providing shelter for cars in transit.

Commissioned and built by the Pekat Group and its associate, MFP Solar, this solar panel facility can generate up to 9 MWp (megawatt peak) of electricity, and offers Proton potential savings of up to RM4.39 million on annual energy expenses, while a further 3 MWp generated by the factory roof-mounted solar panels bring an additional RM1.46 million in energy bill savings, said Proton.

“Proton’s solar panel facility is part of the company’s green initiative as the company takes up the challenge to help Malaysia meet the government’s target of becoming a carbon-neutral nation by 2050. Aside from generating utility savings, the use of clean and renewable energy will allow us to remove 11,536 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, benefiting the local community and ecosystem in Tanjung Malim,” said Proton deputy CEO Roslan Abdullah.

The national carmaker is in fact, well on its path to achieving carbon neutrality. Originating with the Proton Green Wheel and Green Policy in 2015, the five-phase plan began with an energy management system for the collection of energy usage data across its production plants and head office. From two years of energy data gathering and analysis, Proton established energy baselines across its plants and offices to gain insight into areas where it can potentially reduce consumption.

The carpark structure has been designed so that cars do not need to be manoeuvred between the uprights

This was followed by Phase 2, where a number of energy efficiency projects were implemented. Among these were the updating of lamps to use LEDs, the replacement of chillers with magnetic chillers, and the use of a master compressor unit that synchronised the supply of compressed air to match real-time demand at each production shop.

Phase 3 subsequently focused on waste and water management, for which a system was implemented to re-use recycled water for the compressor cooling tower and for the topping up of water for hydrant water tanks at the Tanjung Malim manufacturing plant. Where the solar energy initiative fits in today is Phase 4.

The conclusion of the Proton Green Wheel and Green Policy with Phase 5 is the aim of digitising all of Proton’s energy data into a cloud server where artificial intelligence and big data analytics technology will be introduced, in order to provide Proton’s energy managers with energy consumption predictions and prescriptive measures to reduce the consumption of energy across all of its plants and office facilities.

This initiative has, in the five years between 2015 and 2020, attained savings in energy expenses of RM20 million, or the equivalent of 55,00 kWh of electricity saved, and the reduction of 40,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, according to Proton.

Proton Tanjung Malim solar panel array, official images