“In Agordo this is the first step towards a national network of small biomass plants that generate clean energy directly for the end users”
500 tonnes of biomass per month can produce electric energy (a capacity of 199kWe) and thermal energy (1200kWt), the latter both for heating and cooling, all at a low cost and zero environmental impact. “The plant in Agordo is an example for the future,” explains Venturini, “not only because it is eco-sustainable and drastically reduces emissions of CO2 but because it is created in collaboration with the local administrations from the valley and aims to guarantee jobs. This is the first step for Enel towards the diffusion of a genuine network in Italy of clean generation plants using biomass on a small scale destined to serve businesses directly.”
Producing biomass helps the management of the forest
Officially inaugurating the structure was the vice president of Luxottica, Luigi Francavilla. Clearly thrilled to be cutting the ribbon at the plant he echoed the sentiments of Venturini and outlined his dream: “through Enel, to provide clean energy to the entire Cordevole valley. This is why this plant must just be the beginning.”
Equipped with yellow hard hats, the guided tour began with a visit to a huge stockpile of wood stored next to the boiler. The biomass, from branches, cuttings, forestry waste is of certified quality and is provided by companies located within a range of 40km (“the extra short supply chain,” explains Daniele Itocchi, project manager of the e-Solutions division at Enel, “guarantees the hydrogeological balance, the management of the forests and their ideal maintenance in a clean and ordered state”).
“Created by Enel and today totally operational, the trigeneration plant has a very short supply chain and enables the provision of electric and thermal energy, both hot and cold”
The biomass supplies the furnace, where the wood burns at 950 degrees (the smoke is separated from the ashes and then disposed of separately) and thus through a sophisticated system of filters and turbines, begins the production of clean energy, enough to meet almost the entire thermal energy needs (and part of the electricity requirements) of Luxottica’s headquarters. “The plant,” Itocchi adds, “ was constructed on land that belonged to the company”. Activated for the first time in May 2015 to trial the thermal element, it was completed in March 2017 launching also the electric section, which is now fully operational.”
Behind the glasses, sustainable development
Luxottica is the largest producer and retailer of lenses and glasses in the world. Founded in 1961 in Agordo, where the young Milan native Leonardo Del Vecchio had moved three years earlier to open a shop for spectacle frames, today the company has over 80 thousand staff and nine thousand shops spread across five continents.
“Our mission,” explained Giorgio Striano, operational manager of Luxottica, speaking at the press conference, “has always been to produce beautiful and high quality glasses but to do so with respect for the environment. Really, it could not be any other way seeing as our factory is located at the heart of a park that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Therefore, through the choice of materials, suppliers and working processes, we try to regulate our impact on the territory, both respecting it and maximizing appreciation of it. This model of sustainable development has lead us to use clean energy, to reduce consumption and invest locally with a special focus on employment and the needs of the local community.”
“Since 2014 we have been investing in renewables. A natural choice, for a company that has its headquarters in the heart of a park that has become a World Heritage site”
An enlightened journey that has lasted four years
The policy of sustainability has led Luxottica to invest in green energy not only in Agordo but also in the nearby factory in Cencenighe (where in 2014 the company opened its first biomass plant) and in Lauriano in Piedmont, where the same year a vast photovoltaic plant was opened. “The project in Agordo is the fruit of a journey that has lasted four years and has been driven by Luxottica and Enel together with the local community,” explains Fabio Luchetta, president of the Agordo Mountain Union, a community that is made up of 16 Councils in the Belluno area that spans over 500 square kilometres. “In our case,” continued Luchetta, “we carried out a feasibility study, verified that the territory is capable of providing the biomass necessary for the plant and, finally, got involved with the project with great enthusiasm: the contribution that it will make to the community in terms of jobs and maintenance of the territory - the forests now reach almost into the town square - is significant.”
So, following its history as a mining centre, Agordo is looking ahead to a new eco-sustainable future, having discovered that clean energy also comes made out of wood.