Editor’s note: This blog was written by Amar Singh who is an associate analyst to the AltaTerra Research Network. To purchase the presentation slides from this event, please click here.
I was pleased to have attended the excellent web conference "First Solar: Toward a Sustainable PV Industry"
presented by Lisa Krueger
of First Solar
and moderated by Jon Guice
of AltaTerra Research
on August 25th. In 90 minutes we were given a fact-filled presentation and ample time for questions, without much (if any) salesmanship! The presenter was well prepared and the moderator kept a good pace allowing some questions as they arose and keeping others till the end.
First Solar’s vision for sustainability is central to their mission statement and core values and includes providing clean and affordable solar energy while protecting the environment, their workers, and their customers. They practice "cradle to cradle recycling," which starts with the use of Cadmium (a waste by-product in the Zinc industry) and Tellurium to produce CdTe cells encapsulated into glass modules; they then offer recycling of all modules at end of life at no extra cost to end users, and are currently able to recover and re-use 90% to 95% of the Cd, Te, and glass materials. This recycling plan is unique in that it is pre-funded and the funds are independently managed so they will survive to be used when needed for recycling, even if First Solar is no longer in existence. The company is committed to continuous improvement plans to increase throughput, reduce manufacturing costs, and increase cell efficiency so that their carbon footprint and energy payback time are continuously reduced. They are also committed to worker safety and environmentally sensitive handling of noxious chemicals.
First Solar is active in the European PV Cycle initiative. Members of PV Cycle (about 70% of the European PV industry to-date) are committed to collecting at least 65% of modules installed in Europe since 1990, and to recycling at least 85% of the waste. First Solar is also leading efforts of U.S. groups to set high standards. Among their recommendations to the PV industry in the U.S. are to recognize extended producer responsibility, implement life cycle assessment (LCA) and product life cycle management, increase efforts to reduce impacts of energy production, look into a nation-wide PV collection and recycling program, and cooperate by sharing best practices.
This webinar was part of a series of web events and conferences hosted by AltaTerra on the Solar Industry and Sustainability
. If this is representative of the quality and style of events, then I look forward to learning much more from this series.