With rapidly increasing global module production volumes, managing the environmental footprint of PV module manufacturing has taken on great urgency. Solar energy’s supporters and detractors alike readily acknowledge the potential environmental and public-health risks that manufacturing can pose.
Myths, misinformation and corporate opacity, however, often interfere with honest dialogue about the problem and investigation into possible solutions. In its newly released 2011 Solar Scorecard, nonprofit organization Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) brings concrete data points and rankings into the discussion.
The scorecard rates the world’s major PV module manufacturing players on four “green manufacturing” criteria: product takeback and recycling, worker health and safety issues at PV facilities and in the supply chain, chemical use and lifecycle analysis, and company disclosure statements.
All scores are based on manufacturers’ responses to a survey from SVTC. Although 40 firms were asked to participate, only 15 responded – perhaps a telling survey finding in itself when a primary emphasis is on transparency and accountability.
Overall, Germany-based crystalline PV module manufacturer SolarWorld took the No. 1 spot, with an overall score of 91 out of 100. The company received top marks for product takeback and recycling, as well as for supply chain and green jobs.
In its survey responses, SolarWorld garnered points for such environmentally friendly actions as sending its returned modules to a third-party recycling facility, prohibiting the export of end-of-life modules from developed countries to developing countries, and conducting audits to monitor its supply chain for environmental and health issues. The company also stated that its does not use prison labor for production or recycling.
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