First Solar today released its annual sustainability report which highlights the company’s environmental and safety performance progress, industry-leading utility-scale PV project development practices, and the anticipated sustainability and performance advantages of the company’s next generation Series 6 module technology.
Since 2008, the company has almost halved its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity, surpassing its goal of a 35 percent company-wide reduction by 2016. The decline in emissions intensity was the combined result of an increase in module efficiency, manufacturing throughput and capacity utilization, decreased emissions intensity of purchased grid electricity, along with energy conservation and low carbon initiatives.
Data released as part of First Solar’s 2017 Sustainability Report shows that it has also reduced its manufacturing energy intensity by 30 percent from 2009 to 2016. Notably, although its production volume increased by 24 percent in 2016, First Solar reduced its absolute water withdrawals by 4 percent and saved more than 185 million liters (approximately 49 million gallons) by recycling water at its manufacturing facility in Malaysia.
“Thanks to our thin film technology and efficient manufacturing process, the environmental impact of a First Solar PV system is about two-thirds lower than the average PV system available in the market today.† In fact, our new Series 6 module technology is expected to further increase that gap,” said Mark Widmar, First Solar’s Chief Executive Officer. “In other words, we now deliver high-performance PV modules that can successfully compete against silicon panels, while also delivering the fastest energy payback time and the lowest lifecycle impact in the industry. This is no small achievement.”
Significantly, First Solar has also tracked a 74 percent reduction in manufacturing waste intensity, from 35.1 grams per watt produced in 2009, to 9.1 grams per watt in 2016. Its recycling program – unique to the PV module manufacturing industry – recovers 90 percent of the semiconductor material and glass from decommissioned modules.
“The reduction in our environmental footprint is entirely by design; the result of taking a long-term view on continuously improving our environmental performance while delivering a competitive, reliable, high-quality product,” said Alex Heard, First Solar’s Senior Vice President of Global Technical Services. “Our commitment remains stronger than ever, and we will continue to work to improve our performance, maintaining the benchmark for the rest of the industry.”