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SMA goes zero carbon - how green are your suppliers?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 25 October 2013 at 9:21 am

While the empasis on selling solar panels over the past few years has been on the financial benefits, I also find it very satisfactory to think about the environmental benefits. It's great that I'm generating free electricity, but I also like knowing that I've reduced the carbon emissions of my home.

But how often do we think of the carbon emissions embodied in the goods and services we buy? (I know the answer to this will vary enormously between readers!).

So I was fascinated to hear about SMA's latest initiative to make sure that the manufacture of its Sunny Boy inverters is among the greenest on the market. Its factory in Germany combines cutting edge energy efficiency measures with renewable energy sources. 

The Solar Works 1 factory in Germany took 18 months to build. It has floor space of 18,000 square meters, and produces around 4,000 inverters a day. The building envelope meets Germal Low Energy Building Standard. The factory is designed to maximise the use of natural light, and has a smart ventilation system to keep it cool.

It is powered by a 1MW onsite solar PV system, and a combined heat and poer plant produces carbon neutral heat and pwer from biogas. Extra heating comes from a nearby waste incineration plant, and additional renewable energy is bought in to cover the complete power consumption.

SMA has put the factory's zero carbon credentials to the test, and asked independent auditors CICS to assess the factory's energy use. It verified that within the factory gates the manufacturing processes produce zero carbon emissions (it did not cover vehicle emissions from transport of products or raw materials).

It's great to read about initiatives like this, and I hope it inspires others; businesses to investigage the benefits of decarbonising their production processes; and buyers to look beyond the price at company practices when making decisions.

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