Fraunhofer Institute confirms life cycle assessment
(Wels, 29 April 2021) Fronius has spent one year analysing the life cycle of the GEN24 Plus inverter together with an external sustainability expert. Top marks were awarded to all phases of the product life cycle, from procurement and production through to usage and even disposal once the inverter’s useful life has come to an end. The life cycle analysis was reviewed and certified by the renowned Fraunhofer Institute, meaning that the Fronius GEN24 Plus has the first life cycle assessment in the world to be confirmed by an independent institute.
The Fronius Research & Development department and sustainability analyst Harald Pilz of together for tomorrow scientifically developed and tested different scenarios1 over the course of a year. The results speak for themselves: contrary to popular opinion, the climate change payback time ranges from less than one year to 3.7 years, depending on the scenario. This is equivalent to a carbon footprint² of 117,000 kilometres driven in a car.
“At Fronius, sustainability is not just a cliché, but rather deeply rooted in our conduct and thinking. We invest in years of research to ensure that our products and solutions are future-proof and sustainable,” says Martin Hackl, Global Director of the Business Unit Solar Energy, Fronius International GmbH. “Fact-based working and a high level of transparency form the basis for genuine sustainability,” continues Hackl. “Being involved in this study was eye-opening even for me as a consultant because the analysis examined a number of aspects that are often neglected in other life cycle assessments,” says auditor Karsten Schischke of Fraunhofer IZM.
Scientifically proven sustainability
In the course of the life cycle analysis, the expert team subjected the entire product life cycle of the GEN24 Plus to scientific scrutiny. Everything came under the microscope, from raw materials and components to sustainability in production as well as the transport routes and long service life of products, right through to repairability and recycling.
Payback time and environmental benefits
Depending on the scenario, the CO2 payback time ranges from under one year to 3.7 years. The environmental benefits are up to 26 times greater than the energy required to manufacture and operate the inverter as well as reuse and dispose of the waste³. “The amount of CO2 emissions saved exceeds the amount produced to an extent that only very few electronics products can claim. The focus is on sustainability throughout, from the first sketch by a developer to the selection of materials and suppliers, sustainable production and intelligent service programmes, right through to the end of the service life,” says Martin Hackl proudly. The GEN24 Plus inverter saves up to 16,932 kg of CO2 over the course of a hypothetical service life of 20 years. This is equivalent to nine flights from Munich to New York.
Repairability and recycling
Fronius believes the use of recycled materials and repairability of products are particularly important to conserving our planet’s limited resources. Replaced or faulty inverters are repaired in the company’s Repair Centres. “All the repair processes modelled in the life cycle analysis generate greater environmental benefits than the premature replacement of the entire inverter,” explains David Schönmayr, Project Manager, R&D, Fronius International GmbH.
The GEN24 Plus inverters were designed to be dismantled down to their most important constituent parts in just 5.5 minutes. “Disassembly and recycling of the aluminium heat sink, the wall bracket, the EMC cover and the plastic housing generate the greatest benefits,” explains Schönmayr. Quite uniquely, all Fronius inverters can be repaired directly on site by trained Fronius System Partners. Another huge benefit for sustainability comes in the form of the recycled content of the aluminium heat sink; 100-percent recycled aluminium is used here in Fronius GEN24 Plus inverters.
Fronius sets a good example
In addition to price and performance, a product’s environmental impact is becoming an increasingly important factor in purchasing decisions. However, European rules and directives regarding LCA are only in their infancy. “Although these requirements are not currently compulsory, we have decided to carry out sustainability assessments on our products. We are happy to lead by example to bring our vision of 24 hours of sun to life,” explains Hackl.
“We are very proud of the results of the GEN24 Plus life cycle analysis,” explains Schönmayr. “But we still want to do more, so we have launched the ‘Sustainability by Design’ programme with the aim of promoting an evidence-based, sustainable circular economy.” Life cycle analyses are currently being planned for further Fronius products, with the results being used to develop and optimise products and services.
1Various scenarios were considered for the LCA, concerning the location, photovoltaic system, Fronius inverter, repair options and type of waste recycling. One such example situation was: Symo GEN24 Plus 5.0, 20 years of operation in Germany, conventional PV modules, refuse incineration with metal recycling
2We are always referring to a so-called CO2 equivalent (CO2e) here. This is a unit of measurement intended to facilitate a comparison of the effect of all greenhouse gases on the climate.
3Depending on the device type and country. The indicators used here were the climate, fossil fuels, metal resources, human toxicity, dust, etc.
About Fronius Solar Energy
The Fronius Business Unit (BU) Solar Energy has been developing photovoltaic energy solutions and distributing its products through a global network of expert installation, service and sales partners since 1992. More than 24 Solar Energy subsidiaries, an export ratio of over 93 percent and a total output of more than 21 Gigawatts from installed inverters are testament to this. Its mission is to achieve 24 hours of sun. Day after day Fronius is hard at work turning this vision of a future in which 100% of the world’s energy needs are covered by renewable sources into a reality. With this in mind, Fronius develops energy solutions to generate, store, distribute and consume solar energy economically and intelligently.
About Fronius International GmbH
Fronius International is an Austrian company with headquarters in Pettenbach and other sites in Wels, Thalheim, Steinhaus and Sattledt. Founded by Günter Fronius in 1945, this long-standing company with a rich tradition will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020. What began as a local one-man venture has grown into a global player with more than 5440 employees worldwide working in the areas of welding technology, photovoltaics and battery charging systems. Its export ratio of around 93 percent is achieved with 34 international Fronius subsidiaries and sales partners/representatives in more than 60 countries. Moreover, its innovative products and services and its portfolio of 1264 registered patents make it an innovation leader on the world market.