30 years of Fronius Solar Energy

Fronius Solar Energy celebra su 30.º aniversario

– From a sustainable vision to the largest business segment

– Photovoltaics boom leading to above-average growth

– Expansion of the Sattledt production site almost complete

It was in the early 1990s that Fronius first decided to focus on solar energy as a “technology of the future”. Still not taken seriously back then, the business segment has come to represent the most important pillar of the family company. Since value creation is set to remain in Europe going forwards, this growth is mainly showing itself in the Sattledt production site in Upper Austria.

Fronius, the family-owned company based in Upper Austria, is often associated with the booming photovoltaics industry. But it wasn’t always this way: if you look back at the first 30 years of its youngest. “Solar Energy” business segment, you’ll see that it was only in recent years that this branch developed into the company’s new driving force.

The beginnings of Solar Energy

In 1950, Fronius began developing both its battery charging technology and welding technology branches, experiencing its first major successes from the 1960s onwards. These culminated in the milestone that was the introduction of an unprecedented welding system in 1981.

Thirty years later it seems as though there’s no getting away from green power generation using solar energy. However, these current successes were nothing but a pipe dream for a very long time.

Europe’s energy supply in focus

The extent to which things have since changed and the reason why the Solar Energy business segment has overtaken even the Business Unit Perfect Welding are underpinned by the latest figures: with a planned output of 510,000 inverters this year, Fronius is the biggest manufacturer of prosumer solutions in Europe. There are already 3.4 million Fronius inverters in operation around the world generating 35.1 TWh of clean solar energy every year – the equivalent of 33 Danube power plants.

The energy supply is becoming increasingly decentralised as customers themselves become producers – they generate their own electricity, use it locally and pass the surplus on to other consumers. External environmental factors such as high energy prices and Europe’s future self-sufficiency are noticeably driving this development.

The expansion in Sattledt in figures

That’s why Fronius has based its production sites in Austria and Czech Republic and has never been focused on outsourcing – quite the opposite in fact. . The best example is the major production and logistics site in Sattledt, Upper Austria. Here, the current usable space covering 41,000 m² is set to be expanded by an additional 28,000 m². Overall completion is already scheduled for late July 2022, after which the new space will gradually be filled.

The highlights of the so-called northward expansion include the fully automated high-bay warehouse. It will be the future transfer point for incoming goods and has room for 7,000 pallets and 12,500 small parts containers. Equally unique here are the two newly installed ice storage tanks, which currently constitute the biggest system of its kind in Europe. Put simply, an ice storage tank makes use of the crystallisation energy that is released when water turns to ice. With the aid of heat exchangers, this energy can be used for heating in winter and for cooling and air-conditioning the building in summer.

The route out of the crisis

“We’re setting a number of examples with the new facility in Sattledt,” says CEO Elisabeth Engelbrechtsmüller-Strauß. “Not only do we want to strengthen and secure the future of the site, but we also want to underscore our status as an employer with a stable future. Whereas others announced reduced working hours during the Covid-19 crisis, we launched our long-planned expansion. This year alone, we at Fronius are investing 187 million euros in the future. As a family business, we live and breathe continuity and are very forward-thinking. However, growth doesn’t come at any cost here, but rather only when we can afford it.”

This approach has served Fronius well in the past. For instance, precisely when Elisabeth Engelbrechtsmüller-Strauß took over as CEO, the company found itself in the midst of the solar crisis between 2011 and 2013. Back then, the principle of saving in good times to be ready for the bad proved its worth.