Cork, Ireland is home to a number of big pharma manufacturing sites and amongst them GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and J&J – through its subsidiaries Janssen Biologics and Depuy Synthes – have teamed up to reduce their environmental impact and cut energy costs by implementing wind turbines to power their processing plants.
Two turbines were officially switched on last week to power both Johnson & Johnson sites, and though the firm “certainly wanted to work towards sustainable energy, the primary driver is the cost of electricity,” Kyran Johnson, General Manager of Janssen’s supply Chain, Ireland, told in-Pharmatechnologist.com.
At Janssen, he told us, the firm expected to see a return on the turbine’s initial cost of around €5m ($6.8m) within six or seven years. “We have a 3.5 megawatt turbine here that will power the entire plant when the wind is blowing and will give us excess that we can feed back into the grid,” he added.
The Depuy medical device site, however, has “a huge volume of processing equipment” and the turbine will only supplement utility costs, he said.
For GSK and Novartis, the wind-power will be fed similarly back into their pharma manufacturing plants and the project represents a “very visible” example of how big pharma is working together in Cork.
“It’s a project that’s taken 6 years and not without its challenges,” Johnson told us. “This zone was not designated as a zone for wind turbines so by getting the industry together with IDA [Industrial Development Agency (Ireland)] we’ve said what can we do here?”
By working together, as well as with the authorities and resident groups, the companies were able to create a development plan and leverage significant cost reductions by buying the turbines in bulk.
He added generally within the industry there is a “very high regard for company information that needs to remain confidential,” but projects such as this demonstrate “there is very good sharing of information that doesn’t need to be [kept secret] but can help us influence lobbying government in the EU space, to ensure the industry is well supported.”
Pfizer, who until recently had three manufacturing sites in Cork (Ringaskiddy, Loughbeg and Little Island), was also interested in joining this energy venture. However, Johnson said, at the time the plan was implemented “they decided not to proceed as unfortunately they were going through a downturn and couldn’t get the investment.”