Fraunhofer Institute confirms life cycle assessment
Fronius GEN24 Plus is among the world’s most sustainable inverters
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
“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.
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.
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.
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
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.