Kontron Austria takes responsibility – from green power to organic cafeteria
At Kontron Austria, the sustainability concept is reflected in a wide variety of projects. Since late 2021, for instance, the company has been running on eco-friendly solar power and is making strides in carbon-free heat generation. An interview with Walter Kroupa, Managing Director of Kontron Austria GmbH.
THE SUSTAINABILITY CONCEPT IS GROWING MORE IMPORTANT ALL THE TIME. WHAT PRIORITY DOES THE TOPIC HAVE FOR YOUR PERSONALLY, AND HOW SUSTAINABLE IS KONTRON AUSTRIA GMBH AS A COMPANY?
Walter Kroupa: For me personally, sustainability certainly has high priority. I believe that we all have a duty to establish and maintain a sustainable form of energy management. Private PV systems, for example, are an attractive way to optimize power supply and save money in the process. Commercial use of photovoltaic systems is a great investment in the future. Particularly businesses with high energy needs can achieve a lasting reduction in their energy costs, meaning they profit and save CO2 while they’re at it.
There are many areas in which we can all drive sustainability projects forward. At Kontron Austria, they are among the top items on our priority list, and we are doing our best to turn as many as possible into reality.
CAN YOU TELL OUR READERS MORE ABOUT SOME OF THESE PROJECTS?
Walter Kroupa: My pleasure! Making our enterprise governance as sustainable as possible is very important to us. Not only I as Managing Director of Kontron Austria feel 100% obligated to this challenge, but also Mr. Schlaffer, Head of R&D at our production site in Ebbs and Mr. Niederhauser, Head of Operations in Engerwitzdorf.
So, let us look at a few examples where we as a company are assuming responsibility for our environment. Since late 2021, we have been producing electricity from renewable sources using PV systems installed on the roofs of our two company buildings. Our PV plant in Ebbs has 186 PV modules and produces 66.96 kWp, our plant in Engerwitzdorf has 156 modules and generates 52.56 kWp. And at both locations, we meet our additional power needs with 100% green electricity from local, Tyrolean hydroelectric plants.
DO YOU ACTUALLY USE THE POWER FROM YOUR ROOFTOP SYSTEMS IN YOUR FACTORIES?
Walter Kroupa: We’re a production business, and as such we use the electricity, we generate to drive our production facilities. Kontron Austria GmbH is a full-service provider who develops and manufactures complex electronics components, modules and systems for the industrial and medical technology field. We assume end-to-end manufacturing of electronic assemblies, devices and systems, and that means that our production needs a great deal of electricity. We also use the power we generate to fuel our hybrid company vehicles. Solar power is just perfect – a safe, green form of energy that does not pollute our environment.
In addition to making our own carbon-free power, we’re proud to say that we are pioneers in the field of CO2-free heat generation. When we were building our company premises in Ebbs in 2006, we decided to buy an energy-efficient thermal pump that uses groundwater. That means we heat and cool the building via a so-called “water-water heat pump”.
DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF HOW MUCH PV POWER YOU ARE PRODUCING?
Walter Kroupa: Both PV systems are monitored by the SMA Sunny Portal, which operates as an energy management and PV plant monitoring system. It supplies graphics and data that keep us up to speed on how our photovoltaic systems are performing. It’s exciting to see what’s going on up there on our roof. We also decided to have our PV supplier Clean Energy professionally monitor the systems around the clock. If there should be any trouble with the PV plants, our service partner will know immediately and respond before we incur any major financial loss. This gives us a good feeling and keeps us on the safe side.
HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO START GENERATING YOUR OWN POWER?
Walter Kroupa: Well, don’t we all want to be rid of those constantly rising electric bills? Just kidding, we can’t quite reach that goal, our cold and dark winters won’t allow it. But still it was a smart move, both financially and in the interest of nature and future generations. That Clean Energy would be the right partner for us already became clear during our initial project discussions. They gave us all the information on what average yields we could expect what the costs would amount to and how long it would take for the investment to pay off. It was a convincing proposal, and now we can guarantee our customers that our production facilities run exclusively on sustainably produced power.
WHAT ABOUT THE ASPECT OF SOURCING SUSTAINABLE COMPONENTS?
Walter Kroupa: To the extent that we can, we take this issue into consideration during all our purchasing. For example, we source large-volume components like metal casings or plastic injection cabinets locally because we want to keep transport-related CO2 emissions to a minimum. And short supply paths are an important consideration that it encourages many of our customers to purchase in Europe rather than in Asia.
DOES SUSTAINABILITY ALSO PLAY A ROLE IN OTHER BUSINESS SEGMENTS?
Walter Kroupa: Certainly! For our staff, home office and hybrid working models are part of their employment with us. This means that their cars can often stay in the garage, reducing carbon emissions and saving valuable resources like gasoline. Since we also offer flextime, our staff have plenty of options to take public transport, arrange carpools or simply take a long weekend off from time to time. For stress-free travel to and from work, and for private use too, we offer company bicycles – a sustainable and healthy form of mobility. These bikes let our staffers “change horses”, save gas and benefit from tax incentives as well.
Sustainability is even a topic during our lunch breaks. In our cafeteria we offer subsidized meals, and of course we keep a close eye on food quality and sustainability in production. Our supplier is the company Gourmet, which describes itself as the organic food pioneer in this segment. Wherever we can, we rely on organic food grown in Austria, and you can taste the difference.
Our employees also pay attention to separating their waste and making sure that their computers are turned off at night. Our company buildings also have movement sensors rather than conventional light switches, and we have converted our production halls to LED lighting. When our staff laptops become outdated, we usually give them away to schools. And during the Covid pandemic, we learned that video conferencing can make quite a few business trips unnecessary and lets us save time, money and resources.
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO TELL OUR READERS ABOUT THE TOPIC OF SUSTAINABILITY?
Walter Kroupa: I’m certain that we can all make a valuable contribution to conserving our environment. Deciding what that contribution will be is up to each one of us, depending on our particular circumstances. It can mean coming to work by train or by bike or maybe by electric car. Businesses or private individuals can decide to invest in a solar power system – it’s all up to them. But I do want to stress that there are many ways to act sustainably in the little aspects of our daily lives. Let me end our interview with a quote: “We are responsible not only for what we do, but also for what we neglect to do.” (Molière)
Thank you very much for the interesting interview and the good insights Mr. Kroupa.
If you would like to learn more about Kontron Austria GmbH, please visit https://www.kontron-electronics.com/company/about-us/austria/