The new hall outside the capital of Lower Bavaria is not yet in place. But the crucial numbers are already in the world: one hundred and zero. The special glass manufacturer Schott wants to build a “100 percent climate-neutral building complex” at its location in Landshut-Münchnerau, with at best zero impact on the climate. This will strengthen one of the group’s “most important innovation and development locations,” said Peter Kniprath, head of the Electronic Packaging division, at the groundbreaking ceremony at the beginning of December. Mayor Alexander Putz also contributed enthusiasm. “This will further increase the attractiveness of the Landshut location for highly qualified workers.”
So a factory of the future? In any case, it’s an ambitious project, as Schott admits. Especially since the company, headquartered in Mainz, comes from an industry that is struggling with the question of how future-proof its business in this country still is. Because high energy prices and major question marks regarding supply are causing problems for the glass industry and other trades. There is even talk of a Bavarian location disadvantage, also because – unlike in northern Germany – there are too few wind turbines turning to supply the production facilities with cheap electricity. And the routes that will take it south are still under construction for years.
From this point of view, they should also be interested to see how things develop at Schott in Landshut elsewhere in Bavaria; whether the vision of the hundred and zero will come true. The plan is for the new factory to combine the two Landshut plants into one competence center. Production will then take place in one section of the two-story building, while offices are planned for the other. The heart of the new building – the energy concept – relies on a mix: In simple terms, heat pumps are supposed to regulate heating and cooling, and the exhaust air from production is supposed to provide heat. The electricity for production, however, will come from a photovoltaic system on the roof with 1,000 modules.
The new factory is expected to be completed by autumn 2025 and, according to Schott, will save around 460 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. There is usually enough of this in glass production. In order to form glass, it must first be heated in huge vats to temperatures of up to 1,700 degrees Celsius. Natural gas is often used for this purpose.
This should not be the case in Lower Bavaria. “Schott has been rooted here for decades,” says Thomas Gassner. He is the factory manager at the site and can therefore explain exactly what the 500 or so employees in Landshut produce: high-tech components made of glass and metal as well as glass powder and special glass components. The glass powder, for example used in dentistry for plastic fillings. Schott is considered one of the largest manufacturers of such dental fillings in the world. In addition, components are produced to protect sensitive electronics, for example. “What sets us apart is the high level of innovation,” says Gassner. “There is a new product rate of over 25 percent.” Currently, almost 1,000 items are manufactured in Landshut for various sectors and industries.
However, heating and processing glass literally comes at a price. Energy is considered the largest cost item in the industry. The hardships were great in many places, especially in spring 2022, when natural gas prices reached record highs due to the Russian attack on Ukraine. The prices have now leveled off again. Nevertheless, the construct is on somewhat shaky ground, if only because of the climate protection goals. Not only the glass industry, but also other sectors are increasingly trying to become more independent and greener. The Schaltbau company built a new factory in Velden, Lower Bavaria, which is largely self-sufficient with heat pumps and solar systems.
Schott also has the goal of becoming climate-neutral as a company; at best, this should happen by 2030. To do this, an unspecified, double-digit million amount is being invested in Landshut. However, moving away from natural gas is not without its problems. Heating a melting tank with electricity works differently. “You can imagine it in simple terms, like a kettle,” says company spokesman Jonas Spitra. “Depending on where the water is heated from, there are different flow conditions.” Nevertheless, it must be ensured that the melting process is controlled so that the glass does not have any defects at the end. In order to prepare for the use of electricity in production, extensive tests are still necessary. Corresponding projects are already underway, says Spitra.
In the 2021/22 financial year, Schott achieved global sales of around 2.8 billion euros – a solid result given the market environment and the many global crises. Nevertheless, the group is demanding competitive energy prices from politicians in order to be able to bring products onto the market at competitive prices in the long term. While other industries would already receive this electricity price compensation, this has not yet been the case at Schott. In the end, without any help, the vision of the hundred and zero might not be achievable in the long term.