In 2013, First Solar started reporting on a number of selected sustainability performance metrics including its manufacturing injury rate, energy and water use, waste generation, and greenhouse gas emissions. We will 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. In 2011, however, underutilization of production capacity resulted in reduced manufacturing efficiency which caused a slight increase in energy and carbon intensity. First Solar is committed to extended producer responsibility and lifecycle management. 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. It is our belief that all injuries are preventable. This graph represents recordable injury rate1 for manufacturing (MFG) and engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) where an injury is recordable if it requires medical attention beyond first aid. Significant improvements in safety performance resulted in the incident rate dropping from 4.3 in 2007 to .39 in 2012. First Solar won CLP’s 2011 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 has reduced its waste generation through targeted projects and increased module efficiency. From 2009 to 2012, waste generation decreased by approximately 50% as a result of wastewater treatment process enhancements. In 2011, waste generation slightly increased due to wastewater at our Malaysia facility which needed to be treated off-site. First Solar is implementing a method to treat this water on-site which will reduce the amount of overall waste.
This graph depicts the amount of waste produced in kilograms (kg) according to type and disposal. First Solar began tracking this data in mid-2011, therefore 2012 is the first complete year of data that we can display. As of next year, we will be able to show how our waste by type and disposal compares from one year to the next.
* Hazardous waste is classified according to the definition used by the countries in which we operate.
First Solar has recycling facilities that are operational in all of its global manufacturing plants. First Solar recycles modules on-site; both manufacturing line scrap and modules returned from the field. First Solar’s recycling process recovers up to 95% 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, 83% is sent for beneficial reuse.
This graph depicts the energy intensity (energy consumption per watt produced) of all manufacturing plants, the major R&D facility, EPC-owned construction equipment, and FS-owned vehicle fleet. Our manufacturing data takes into account all processes, from glass to completed panel. First Solar’s energy intensity decreased by nearly 10% in 2010 as a result of increased manufacturing throughput. Underutilization of production capacity in 2011 and 2012 led to a slight increase in energy intensity. First Solar strives to reduce its energy intensity through continuous improvements in module and throughput efficiency as well as by implementing energy saving initiatives.
First Solar’s water consumption per watt produced decreased by more than 13% from 2009 to 2012 through water conservation projects and improved module efficiency. First solar is reducing its water intensity by implementing projects to both reduce and reuse water.
In 2011, First Solar set a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity 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 FS-owned vehicle fleet on a carbon intensity basis measured per MW produced. Since 2008, First Solar reduced its carbon intensity¹ by over 20% through increased module efficiency and manufacturing throughput. Underutilization of production capacity in 2011 led to a slight increase in carbon intensity. The increase was also due to more comprehensive emissions reporting along with a rise in the emissions factor of Germany’s electricity grid². In 2012, First Solar reduced its GHG emissions intensity by achieving significant increases in module efficiency. First Solar is continuously driving GHG reductions by implementing the company’s efficiency improvement and throughput roadmaps along with energy conservation measures.
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.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) developed a sustainability reporting framework with indicators that enable organizations to measure their economic, environmental, and social performance. The chart below serves to show 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).
Additional information on wastewater is available on the Ecoinvent Life Cycle Database