Top Solar Companies: Solar PV Module Manufacturers Get Graded and Ranked

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solar scorecard 2011

We don’t put a ton of attention on the environmental concerns of solar power, because the environmental downsides really don’t compare to the environmental benefits of switching from coal or nuclear to solar. Nonetheless, solar does have its impacts.

Different companies, different solar technologies, and different manufacturing processes have different effects, of course. For the many environmentally-minded solar enthusiasts out there, though, there hasn’t been much to distinguish which are the best in this arena. Even beyond that, there has been little evaluation of how these companies compare when it comes to social justice issues. But, for the second year in a row, someone has tackled this task….

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) announced the release of its 2011 Solar Company Scorecard last week. The solar scorecard “ranks manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules according to a range of environmental, sustainability and social justice factors.”

The final ranking according to the scorecard was as follows:

  1. SolarWorld (Germany)
  2. Trina Solar (China)
  3. Abound (U.S.); First Solar (U.S.); and REC (Norway)

SunPower of Silicon Valley followed close behind the three companies that tied for third. Interestingly, BP Solar was near the bottom.

“Solar power is key to helping solve the world’s climate crisis,” said Sheila Davis, executive director of SVTC. “However, the solar industry still faces serious environmental challenges that need to be addressed before it can be considered a truly ‘clean and green’ industry.”

This is true. Of course, I’d like to reiterate what I said above. While there are topics to address and improvements to be made, if anyone claims that solar isn’t what it’s hyped to be because of these, they are off their rocker. Solar is a world apart from coal and nuclear when it comes to environmental issues. (But that doesn’t mean we should pretend it’s perfect.)

How were the rankings produced? The companies were ranked on:

  • extended producer responsibility (EPR);
  • supply chain monitoring and green jobs;
  • chemical-use and lifecycle analysis; and
  • disclosure.

15 PV manufacturing companies responded to the survey and together represent 46.6% of the solar PV market share based on 2009 data.

A couple interesting findings from the survey include that:

  • 11 PV manufacturers “would publicly support a law requiring mandatory takeback and recycling” and
  • 2 of the 15 PV manufacturers “report that their products contain no cadmium or lead.”

“The results show the importance of social and environmental issues and how they are increasingly becoming recognized by the industry as being central to its long-term license to operate,” Seb Beloe, head of Sustainable and Responsible Investment (SRI) research at Henderson Global Investors, a second year-sponsor of the scorecard said.

Know of any other solar ranking systems like this?

Image via solar scorecard 2011

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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