Green tech to the fore

Posted on February 6, 2011. Filed under: Energy |

http://www.eco-business.com/news/2011/feb/06/green-tech-fore/

Malaysia, February 6 – How would you like to do your part for the environment while watching TV? Sharp Corporation has come up with its latest green products which, it says, are not only more energy efficient but also use less resources in production.

Electrical appliances have become so much a part of our daily lives that we cry in protest or feel handicapped when a power outage occurs and we cannot use them.

One of the many devices that most of us cannot do without must surely be the TV set. With the conventional idiot box becoming more advanced and intelligent each day, the latest must-have consumer item now is the LCD or Plasma TV that provides more dramatic and colourful pictures than ordinary TVs.

Like other electrical and electronic gadgets, TVs consume energy and we sometimes forget that using these products also increases the world’s carbon emissions.

Multiply one TV set by over one billion sets worldwide and you will realise the astronomical cost to the environment in terms of energy and greenhouse emissions.

This is why manufacturers such as Sharp have taken the major step to reduce the environmental impact by developing energy-efficient and resource-saving devices.

The brand is emerging as a more eco-friendly manufacturer in line with its ecology-positive corporate vision launched in 2009.

To emphasise its new direction called the Sharp Biodiversity Initiative, the company set up the Green Front – its environmentally-friendly manufacturing plant – in Sakai City, Osaka, in March last year.

Among the products that roll out from the Green Front is the Aquos LCD flat-screen TV, which is said to reduce power consumption from about 220kwh (kilowatt-hours) per year to just 130kwh per year.

“We want our business to contribute to producing energy-saving and energy-creating products,” said Sharp group general manager Takashi Okuda, during a briefing at the plant in Osaka.

The Green Front covers 1.2 million sq metres and cost ¥430bil (RM16bil) to build.

The state-of-the-art plant produces energy-saving LCD panels and thin-film solar cells for the global market.

Okuda, who is in charge of global market development and emerging markets in Asia and Oceania, said the plant’s carbon emissions were reduced through a centralised manufacturing, management and movement of goods. Even the factory rooftops have solar panels to generate their own electricity.

Green Front general manager Takuo Mori said the plant used 100,000 energy-saving LED and solar-powered lights, which save energy costs, while components within the production centres in the factory area are transported automatically from one production area to another, thus eliminating the use of trucks and reducing unnecessary logistics and carbon emissions.

“Our aim is to create an environmentally-friendly or green society by making products with outstanding environmental performance at this eco-friendly plant,” Mori elaborated.

Green Front, which houses the factories of 19 Sharp subsidiary companies, also has an advanced water treatment plant that recycles its own water supply.

“We try to make all our products as energy-efficient as possible. Cutting-edge technologies are used to create LCD panels which use less raw materials,” Mori said.

“The plant has an energy control centre – equipped with 46 large computer and image screens – which controls and supplies the entire complex with electricity, gas and water, thus helping to reduce carbon emissions by 20% per annum.”

Production planning and shipment from all 19 subsidiaries are connected through the centre’s IT conference systems. All the efforts are developed with the help of researchers from the Osaka Prefecture University, which jointly set up an ecology laboratory in the Sakai plant grounds.

Sharp deputy general manager in charge of solar business Nobura Hanioka said the photo-voltaic (PV) or solar panel market was expanding every year.

“In Japan, Sharp has provided solar cells for houses, with the government buying the excess electricity of solar-powered homes to reduce consumer expenses and promote green energy. We have produced PV-powered mobile phones for the Japanese handphone market and are now developing various solar applications for cars.

“In Malaysia, Sharp has supplied solar batteries to several rural schools in Sabah,” he said.

Almost the entire LCD panel-making process in Sharp’s Osaka LCD plant is carried out automatically, using robotic transports and mechanisation, which consume less energy.

As a result, only a few staff oversee production at the factory. The company’s LCD panels also use less raw materials, Hanioka added.

Okuda said the Green Front would be Sharp’s model plant for all the company’s factories located worldwide.

In Malaysia, Sharp introduced the latest 3D TV set last month where viewers get to watch 3D movies on TV when wearing the 3D glasses.

The company also showed off some of its latest products to the group of Malaysian journalists visiting Green Front. Among them was the prototype Galapagos tablet e-book reader.

There are currently two models – a 5.5-inch model with an LCD display screen that reads like a paperback book, and a 10.8-inch type with a high-resolution high definition LCD screen that allows users to enjoy magazines formatted across a two-page spread.

Okuda said the name Galapagos, an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, was picked as a symbol of Sharp’s “evolution” of services to their users.

In 1835, English naturalist Charles Darwin had sailed to the Galapagos and in later years, formulated his theory of evolution to explain the diversity of life based on the observations he made on the islands’ wildlife.

Users of the Galapagos tablet, released in Japan in December, can receive the latest editions from newspapers, magazines and books.

Another prototype product shown to the Malaysian delegation was the “dual-directional viewing” LCD in-car TV monitor and GPS device that show two moving images simultaneously.

The car driver can use the GPS to find his way around while the side passenger can watch movies from the same screen simultaneously.

Sharp has certainly come a long way from its simple beginnings as a metal workshop founded by Tokuji Hayakawa in 1912.

It takes its name from one of Hayakawa’s first inventions, the Ever-Sharp mechanical pencil in 1915.

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