As part of our commitment to transparency, 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.
Since 2009, we’ve successfully reduced our energy, water, waste, and carbon intensity per watt produced through improvements in module efficiency, manufacturing throughput and capacity utilization, as well as by implementing resource conservation projects at our facilities. In 2015, we met and exceeded our goal to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity by 35% by 2016 from a base year of 2008. We continually strive to minimize our operational impact and drive continuous improvement to enable First Solar’s capacity to endure and to scale.
First Solar is committed to responsible manufacturing and PV power plant construction. We’ve received global recognition for our state-of-the art environmental controls and performance, world-class health and safety practices, industry-leading quality and reliability and manufacturing excellence. In 2015, our manufacturing site in Malaysia was awarded the prestigious Prime Minister’s Hibiscus Award and our Perrysburg campus received the Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence Gold Award. First Solar’s Santa Clara office also received the Bay Area Green
Recordable Injury Rate (Per 200,000 Hours of Exposure)
“Safety First” is a core value at First Solar and we strive for an injury-free workplace. First Solar’s recordable injury rate
(RIR) includes all manufacturing and office personnel. 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. First Solar’s company-wide and EPC injury rates are well below manufacturing and construction industry average rates of 4.9 and 3.2 per 200,000 hours of exposure, respectively.
Since 2008, First Solar has reduced its recordable injury rate by over 80 percent (from 2.6) by establishing a strong safety culture throughout the company, ensuring understanding of First Solar’s Safety Policies and Procedures, and standardizing processes at our project sites. First Solar requires all contractors to work under our safety policies, programs and procedures. We use leading indicators to increase health and safety awareness and better predict and prevent accidents before they occur. Daily safety incident tracking and improved trending tools make it easier to identify unwanted trends and areas of increased attention across our entire fleet of projects. As a result, our company-wide RIR is nearly 15 times lower than the manufacturing industry average and our EPC RIR of less than 1 is well below average construction industry rates.
Manufacturing Energy Intensity 2012 - 2015
First Solar’s manufacturing energy intensity (energy consumption per watt produced) includes all processes from the beginning of our manufacturing process to finished panel. Our manufacturing energy intensity has decreased by over 20% since 2009 due to increased manufacturing throughput and module efficiency. In 2015, our manufacturing energy intensity decreased by over 12%. We produced 2.5 GW of solar modules in 2015, which represented a 39% increase from the previous year. We ran our manufacturing facilities at approximately 92% capacity utilization during 2015, which represented an 11% increase from 2014.
Manufacturing Water Intensity 2012 - 2015
First Solar’s manufacturing water intensity (water consumption per watt produced) has decreased nearly 30% since 2009 due to significant improvements in module efficiency and manufacturing throughput along with water conservation and recycling projects. By recycling rejected water from our purification system back into our raw water tank, we’ve reduced our total water consumption by approximately 9% in Malaysia.
Manufacturing Waste Intensity
First Solar’s manufacturing waste generation intensity (grams per watt produced) has decreased by over 75% since 2009 as a result of increased module and manufacturing efficiency, increased recycling and targeted waste minimization projects. In 2015, we decreased our waste generation intensity by over 25% by recycling waste that would normally be sent for disposal. In addition, our synthetic EVA is now being recycled into useable material for products such as rubber mats, bicycle handles, and shoe soles, thereby further closing the loop on our product’s life cycle.
Manufacturing Waste Recycled vs. Disposed 2013 - 2015
his graph depicts waste recycled and disposed by First Solar’s manufacturing and recycling facilities in Perrysburg, Ohio and Kulim, Malaysia. The data includes modules that we recycle onsite; both manufacturing line scrap and modules returned from the field but do not include modules that are being recycled at our recycling facility in Germany
First Solar’s state-of-the-art recycling process recovers over 90 percent of the semiconductor material and 90 percent of the glass. The glass cullet is reused in new glass products and the unrefined semiconductor material is sent for further processing to be reused in new modules. Many other manufacturing byproducts are recycled. Overall, of the total material First Solar sends off-site, over 79% is sent for beneficial reuse and not to landfill.
Waste by Type and Destination 2014 - 2015
This graph depicts First Solar’s overall waste produced in kilograms (kg) according to type and disposal. Despite an 11% increase in our manufacturing capacity in 2015, our total waste generation increased less than 1% as a result of increased recycling and improvements in module efficiency. Hazardous waste is classified according to the definition used by the countries in which we operate
Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2012 - 2015
We surpassed our goal to reduce our GHG emissions intensity by 35% by 2016 from a base year of 2008. The chart depicts direct (scope 1) and indirect (scope 2) emissions of all manufacturing and recycling plants, R&D and testing facilities, EPC-owned construction equipment, company-owned operational solar projects, and company-owned vehicle fleet on a carbon intensity basis measured per MW produced. In 2015, First Solar’s emissions intensity decreased by over 30% and the company’s absolute emissions decreased by 6%. Since 2008, we’ve reduced our carbon intensity by ~50% through increased module efficiency, manufacturing throughput, and capacity utilization, decreased emissions intensity of purchased grid electricity, and energy conservation and low carbon initiatives.