The Solar Scorecard is based on SVTC’s annual survey of photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturers, as well as on prior survey responses, interviews, news stories, and publicly available data. The goal of the Scorecard is to enhance transparency around environmental health, safety, and sustainability issues for communities, workers, and the environment.
SVTC started collecting data for the Solar Scorecard in 2009 when the solar industry produced just 6.4 GW of PV modules. In 2013, the PV industry produced 38.7 GW, more than six times the 2009 total. Since 2010, 44.5% of the PV industry (based on 2013 market share) has participated in one or more SVTC survey.
Seven companies representing 25.2% of the PV module market share responded to the 2014 SVTC survey. This is a decline from the response of 51.1% in 2012, due largely to the bankruptcies and/or restructuring of former participants.
The results compiled from SVTC’s 2014 survey and research include the following:
- 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 USA come with EPR. Three PV manufacturers (Trina, Yingli, and Up Solar) have written letters to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) seeking action on EPR for PV modules in the USA. Over the past three SVTC surveys, 14 companies have said they would support public policy for an EPR scheme for PV modules (Aleo, Avancis, Eurener, First Solar, REC, SolarWorld, Solon, SoloPower, SunPower, Suntech, Trina, Up Solar, and Yingli).
- Ten PV manufacturers post annual hazardous chemical reduction targets on their websites or in sustainability reports.
- Twelve companies manufacture PV modules with amounts of cadmium or lead below regulatory thresholds set by the European Union, the world’s most stringent standard. This means that the maximum concentration found in any homogenous material that makes up these PV modules is less than 0.01% for cadmium and 0.10% or less for lead.
- Two companies have recently obtained or are planning to obtain incidental take permits for endangered, threatened, or species of special concern for their power plants (First Solar and SolarWorld). Very few companies build, own, or operate PV power plants.
- A total of 23 companies include some information about PV recycling on their websites, in varying depth and detail. Most companies have logos or links to PV Cycle for European customers. Only one PV manufacturer (First Solar) explains to all customers how to recycle end-of-life PV modules. For other companies, if recycling options were described, it was for European customers.
- Zero companies can provide documentation to verify that their supply chains do not contain conflict minerals based on the due diligence guidelines set by the OECD. Twelve companies are engaged in or have started the process of due diligence to determine if conflict minerals are present in their supply chains.