New LCA To Go tool from Ecodesign Centre Wales aims to improve payback time for small solar arrays
Small and medium-sized solar installers are being given the chance to analyse the full environmental impact of the systems they install through a new online tool that allows them to carry out lifecycle analysis (LCA) for free.
The LCA To Go tool, which was unveiled last week by Cardiff's Ecodesign Centre, uses a system of algorithms that aims to take out the more complicated and time consuming elements of an LCA.
The calculator aims to offer a sector-specific way for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to learn about the benefits of LCA and meet the increasing demands of customers who want to make greener investment decisions. In less than 30 minutes installers will learn the carbon footprint, net energy payback time, net energy gains of a specified photovoltaic system, the Ecodesign Centre said.
The solar LCA To Go tool has been developed as part of an EU-wide project that aims to help SMEs across a range of sectors assess their carbon emissions. Smaller installers have traditionally struggled to carry out an LCA due to time and resource constraints, which means they could risk losing out on contracts from customers that wish to make investment decisions based on in-depth environmental information.
LCA To Go purposefully offers a stripped down version of the full LCA analysis in order to make it more tangible to SMEs, although as such it is only available for systems under 500kW in capacity and does not measure end of life impacts.
Bristol-based Solar-Sense, which installs solar power panels for both commercial and domestic customers, including a recent array on Michael Eavis' dairy farm in Glastonbury, has already piloted the tool. The company's Peter Dicken said it confirmed the firm's favoured modules were an efficient choice, offering an "energy payback time" of around two years. He predicted the tool would be useful for commercial clients, particularly in the food sector, which are increasingly taking steps to curb the environmental impact of their energy supply.
However, a spokeswoman for the Ecodesign Centre said the tool was unlikely to be useful for larger suppliers given the 500kW limit.
The tool has been developed as part of a programme led by Germany's Fraunhofer Institute that is aiming to deliver similar LCA tools for SMEs across seven sectors. The Ecodesign Centre will produce a similar tool later this year for bio-based plastics, while other project partners in France and Germany are developing systems for industrial machinery, electronics, sensors and smart textiles.
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