The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) released its Sixth Annual 2015 Solar Scorecard at www.solarscorecard.com/2015, which ranks manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules according to a range of environmental, sustainability and social justice factors. This year’s respondents of PV companies more than doubled from last year, including new participation from LG, Jinko, Kyocera, AUO and WINAICO.
The 13 companies that responded to the 2015 Solar Scorecard represent just 35.8 percent of the total PV module market share, with the remainder of the information gathered from publicly available documentation.
“The number of companies committed to reporting environmental practices continues to fluctuate wildly from year to year,” said Sheila Davis, executive director of Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. “The inconsistent participation is largely due to bankruptcies, restructuring and new entries into the Solar PV manufacturing market. We need consistent industrywide sustainability practices and reporting procedures that consumers can expect from all solar companies.”
In November 2014, SVTC announced plans to expand its Scorecard into a standard that meets the criteria of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). With participation more than doubling this year, SVTC believes that interest and participation will continue to increase as the Solar Scorecard transitions into a formal accredited standard by 2017.
Key findings from this year’s solar scorecard and SVTC’s research throughout the last six years include:
• SunPower (97), SolarWorld (93), Trina (92) REC (82) and Yingli (80) earned the top scores in 2015.
• Six PV manufacturers have written letters to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), seeking action on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for PV modules in the U.S. This number has doubled from the 2014 Scorecard. Most PV modules sold in Europe are covered by a pre-funded Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme to ensure safe and responsible disposal. No PV modules in the U.S. come with EPR.
• Over the past six SVTC surveys, 14 companies have said they would support public policy for an EPR scheme for PV modules (Aleo Solar, Avancis, Eurener, First Solar, REC, SolarWorld, SOLON, SoloPower, SunPower, Suntech Power, Trina Solar, Up Solar, Jinko Solar and Yingli). However, at least one company’s 2015 letter (SolarWorld) openly expressed concern regarding SEIA’s ability to provide leadership in EPR policy development.
• Methods used by PV manufacturers to report the use of hazardous chemicals to the public remains inconsistent. Only six PV manufacturers (Trina, AUO, SunPower, SolarWorld, Sharp and JA Solar) do extensive chemical emissions disclosure and reporting on their websites. Sixteen companies (three more than in 2014) report one or more categories of emissions (hazardous waste, heavy metals, air pollution, ozone depleting substances and landfill disposal).
• Fourteen companies manufacture PV modules with amounts of cadmium or lead below regulatory thresholds set by the European Union, the world’s most stringent standard (increase from 12 companies in 2014). This indicates that the maximum concentration found in any homogenous material that makes up these PV modules is less than 0.01 percent for cadmium and 0.10 percent or less for lead.
“The SVTC Solar Scorecard requires PV module manufacturers to report on sustainability performance metrics, disclose environmental, health, and safety certifications and report other information,” said Associate Professor Dustin Mulvaney of San Jose State University, who helped SVTC interpret the scores. “These practices are increasingly commonplace in other electronics and semiconductor industries. The fact that company scores continue to increase is a sign that solar industry leaders are integrating sustainability reporting into operations.”