SunPower, SolarWorld and Trina earned top marks in the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition’s 2015 Solar Scorecard, which ranks manufacturers of solar photovoltaic modules according to several environmental, sustainability and social justice factors.
REC, Yingli, JA Solar, AUO, LG, First Solar and Upsolar rounded out the top ten performers. JA Solar showed the most improvement from the 2014 Solar Scorecard — moving from a total score of 10 out of 100 in 2014 to 77 in 2015.
SunEdison, Hyundai, Hareon Solar, Gintech, SolarGiga, Suniva, Miasole and Andalay Solar all received the worst scores on this year’s list.
Now in its sixth year, the scorecard gives solar companies “sunny,” “partly cloudy” and “rainy” ratings for extended producer responsibility; high value recycling; chemical reduction plans; workers rights, health and safety; supply chains; module toxicity; biodiversity; energy and greenhouse gasses; conflict minerals; water; and prison labor.
The 13 companies that responded to the 2015 scorecard represent just under 36 percent of the total PV module market share, SVTC says, with the remainder of the information gathered from publicly available documentation.
In November 2014, SVTC announced plans to expand its Scorecard into a standard that meets the criteria of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). With participation more than doubling this year, SVTC believes that interest and participation will continue to increase as the Solar Scorecard transitions into a formal accredited standard by 2017.
Six PV manufacturers have written letters to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), seeking action on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for PV modules in the U.S. This number has doubled from the 2014 Scorecard. Most PV modules sold in Europe are covered by a pre-funded Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme to ensure safe and responsible disposal, but no PV modules in the U.S. come with EPR.
Over the past six SVTC surveys, 14 companies have said they would support public policy for an EPR scheme for PV modules. However, SolarWorld’s 2015 letter openly expressed concern regarding SEIA’s ability to provide leadership in EPR policy development.
Methods used by PV manufacturers to report the use of hazardous chemicals to the public remains inconsistent. Only six PV manufacturers do extensive chemical emissions disclosure and reporting on their websites. Sixteen companies report one or more categories of emissions, including hazardous waste, heavy metals, air pollution, ozone depleting substances and landfill disposal.
Fourteen companies manufacture PV modules with amounts of cadmium or lead below regulatory thresholds set by the European Union, the world’s most stringent standard (increase from 12 companies in 2014). This indicates that the maximum concentration found in any homogenous material that makes up these PV modules is less than 0.01 percent for cadmium and 0.10 percent or less for lead.