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In support of our ongoing sustainability goals, First Solar reports on a number of selected sustainability performance metrics including our recordable injury rate, energy and water use, waste generation, and greenhouse gas emissions. We continue to build on this commitment and report on metrics that reflect the priority focus areas of First Solar’s Sustainability program. Unless otherwise specified, the data includes all of First Solar’s manufacturing plants and its major R&D facility.
Since 2008, First Solar has reduced its energy, water, waste, and carbon intensity through improvements in module efficiency, manufacturing throughput, and shifting to full-scale production. Underutilization of production capacity in 2012 resulted in reduced manufacturing efficiency which caused a slight increase in energy intensity. Significant improvements in module efficiency and manufacturing throughput in 2013 resulted in lower energy, water, and waste intensity across our operations. Total energy consumption, water use, and waste production decreased in 2013 with the closure of our European manufacturing operations.
As part of our commitment to extended producer responsibility and responsible lifecycle management, First Solar offers a global and proven industry-leading PV recycling program to further minimize the life cycle impacts of our products. We continuously strive to improve our technology and resource conservation measures to deliver greater economic, social, and environmental benefits globally.
First Solar implements programs and systems to ensure compliance with applicable environmental, health, and safety regulatory requirements. All First Solar manufacturing sites are certified to globally recognized standards: ISO 14001 for Environmental Management, ISO 9001 for Quality and OHSAS 18001 for Occupational Health and Safety.
"Safety First" is a core value at First Solar and we strive to prevent all injuries. First Solar’s recordable injury rate¹ (RIR) includes all manufacturing and offices (MFG). The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) RIR includes PV array construction workers that were contracted by First Solar. An injury is considered recordable if it requires medical attention beyond first aid. Since 2008, significant safety performance improvements at our manufacturing sites resulted in a fivefold decrease in First Solar’s recordable injury rate. Since 2009, First Solar EPC contractors reduced their RIR by approximately 65%. In 2011, First Solar’s EPC team won CLP’s Safety Partner of the Year award in honor of its commitment to safety, extraordinary safety record and safety partnership efforts.
¹The Recordable Injury Rate (RIR) is the number of recordable injuries and illnesses per 200,000 hours of exposure. 200,000 is the number of hours accumulated by 100 employees working 40 hours a week for 50 weeks.
First Solar’s waste generation per watt decreased by over 60% since 2009 through increased module and manufacturing efficiency, targeted waste minimization projects, and the closure of our European manufacturing facility in 2012. Underutilization and lower manufacturing throughput in 2011 and 2012 resulted in a higher waste generation intensity. By increasing manufacturing throughput and module efficiency, First Solar’s waste intensity significantly decreased in 2013.
*First Solar revised its waste data for previous years as we had been double counting waste that the company recycles.
This graph depicts First Solar’s overall waste produced in kilograms (kg) according to type and disposal, including waste generated as a result of the closure of our European manufacturing facility. In 2013, we reduced our absolute waste generation by nearly 20% and decreased the amount of hazardous waste* disposed by approximately 30% through waste minimization projects, increased wastewater recycling, and the closure of our manufacturing facility in Germany. Equipment changes in 2012 resulted in additional scrap metal generation which contributed to the increase in recycled non-hazardous material. First Solar revised its waste data for previous years as we had been double counting waste that the company recycles.
* Hazardous waste is classified according to the definition used by the countries in which we operate.
In 2013, First Solar increased the amount of waste it recycles through wastewater treatment enhancements. In previous years, wastewater at our Malaysia manufacturing facility had to be shipped off-site as waste, increasing the overall amount of waste disposed. By treating the wastewater onsite and recycling it, First Solar is reducing the amount of overall waste disposed. First Solar has recycling facilities that are operational in all of its global manufacturing plants. We recycle modules on-site; both manufacturing line scrap and modules returned from the field. First Solar’s state-of-the-art recycling process recovers over 90% of the semiconductor material and 90% of the glass. The glass cullet is reused in new products and the unrefined semiconductor material is sent for further processing to be reused in new modules. Many other manufacturing by-products are recycled. Overall, of the total material First Solar sends off-site, 84% is sent for beneficial reuse, and not to landfill.
This graph depicts First Solar’s energy intensity (energy consumption per watt produced) taking into account the beginning of our manufacturing process to finished panel. Our energy intensity decreased by approximately 15% since 2009 due to increased manufacturing throughput and module efficiency. Underutilization of production capacity in 2011 and 2012 led to a slight increase in energy intensity. We strive to reduce our energy intensity through continuous improvements in module and throughput efficiency as well as by implementing energy saving initiatives.
First Solar’s manufacturing water consumption per watt produced decreased by over 20% since 2009 through water conservation projects and significant improvements in module efficiency. First solar is reducing its water intensity by implementing projects to both reduce and reuse water. In 2012, First Solar set a target to reduce total water consumption at its manufacturing facility in Malaysia by 8% from 2011 levels. Our facility in Malaysia surpassed its 2012 goal by achieving 8.8% absolute water savings through increased water recycling.
In 2012, First Solar set a goal to reduce its GHG emissions intensity1 by 35% for 2016 from a base year of 2008. This graph depicts direct (scope 1) and indirect (scope 2) emissions of all manufacturing plants, the major R&D facility, EPC-owned construction equipment, and First Solar-owned vehicle fleet on a carbon intensity basis measured per MW produced. Since 2008, First Solar reduced its carbon intensity by over 20% through increased module efficiency and manufacturing throughput. In 2013, First Solar’s emissions intensity grew by approximately 2.5% due to underutilization of manufacturing capacity (approximately 77% capacity utilization in 2013) and shifting production from Germany to Malaysia. Despite Malaysia having a more carbon-intensive grid mix than Germany, First Solar successfully managed to mitigate GHG emissions from electricity usage through energy conservation projects.
1 Carbon intensity refers to the amount of CO₂ emissions per unit of energy.
2 National emissions factors are used to calculate indirect emissions from the consumption of grid electricity.
First Solar is currently developing the company’s first Sustainability Report in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative’s G4 guidelines. The GRI developed a sustainability reporting framework with indicators that enable organizations to measure their economic, environmental, and social performance. The Key Performance Indicator chart depicts how First Solar performed against a number of key GRI indicators. The GRI performance indicators used in the chart stand for economic (EC), environment (EN), and labor practices (LA).
1 Includes all First Solar manufacturing plants, the major R&D facility, EPC-owned construction equipment, and First Solar-owned vehicle fleet
2 First Solar revised its waste data for previous years as we had been double counting waste that the company recycles
Additional information on wastewater is available on the Ecoinvent Life Cycle Database