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Updated: SolarWorld tops green scorecard for solar PV producers

SolarWorld has come out top in the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) 2011 Solar Company Scorecard, which ranks solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturers according to environmental, sustainability and social justice factors.

By Renewable Energy Focus staff

China’s Trina Solar came second, and the third place is shared by Abound and First Solar from the US, and REC from Norway. SunPower followed in fourth place.

“Solar power is key to helping solve the world’s climate crisis,” says Sheila Davis, Executive Director of SVTC. “However, the solar industry still faces serious environmental challenges that need to be addressed before it can be considered a truly ‘clean and green’ industry.”

The solar PV module manufacturers were scored based on their responses in areas such as:

  • Extended producer responsibility (EPR);
  • Supply chain monitoring and green jobs;
  • Chemical use and lifecycle analysis; and
  • Disclosure.

Highlights from the solar PV scorecard include:

  • 15 solar PV module manufacturers present 46.6% of the industry market share (based on 2009 statistics);
  • 11 solar PV manufacturers will publicly support a law requiring mandatory take-back and recycling; and
  • Two of the 15 solar PV manufacturers say their products contain no cadmium or lead.

Davis tells Renewable Energy Focus, that there were in fact three companies given scores for no cadmium or lead: "Three companies were awarded points for containing no lead or cadmium: Axitec, SunPower, and Eurener. Trina also reported that their products do not contain cadmium or lead, however, SVTC was not able to verify Trina’s answer when we conducted a spot check on the survey responses."

Asked what the environmental challenges facing solar PV are, Davis says: "The most widely used solar PV technologies (crystalline silicon and cadmium telluride panels) are based on many of the same technologies, manufacturing processes, and hazardous chemicals used in the microelectronics industry. These products therefore raise many of the same manufacturing and disposal concerns.

"Currently the electronics industry is experience a waste crisis, where most of the computers and other electronic waste generated in the US is dumped in developing countries and recycled in horrendous conditions by very poor people, including children. We don’t want the solar industry to follow this path. The solar industry can get ahead of the waste problem by designing their products so that they can be easily recycled and investing in recycling infrastructures so that the panels can be safely recycled in the regions where they are sold."

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