Clean Tech Companies Not Always Clean, Study Finds

Clean Tech Companies Not Always Clean, Study Finds

Cracked solar panel - / CC BY-SA 2.0

Three German solar companies took the top spots in the first Solar Company Scorecard created by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, which found where solar companies are advancing or lagging on environmental issues.

The San Jose-based group asked more than 200 solar photovoltaic (PV) module companies to answer questions about four topics: extended producer responsibility and product takeback, supply chain monitoring and green jobs, chemical use and lifecycle analysis, and disclosure.

Fourteen companies from China, France, Germany, Greece and the United States, responded, representing 24 percent of the 2008 PV module market.

Companies were scored on a scale of 0-100, and the top three spots were taken by German companies Calyxo, SolarWorld and Sovello, with scores of 90, 88 and 73. The two U.S.-based companies that responded, First Solar and Abound, received 67 and 63 points.

The scores were based on self-reported information, and the Solar Company Scorecard website includes pages for each company where their complete responses can be downloaded.

Since three of the companies do not manufacture solar modules or cells, they were not scored. And one company that responded, Q-Cells, manufactures solar cells, so it was score separately, with a score of 96.

The complete list of scores:

  • Calyxo, Germany - 90
  • Solarworld, Germany - 88
  • Sovello, Germany - 73
  • Yingli, China - 69
  • First Solar, U.S. - 67
  • Abound Solar, U.S. - 63
  • Solon, Germany - 50
  • Solaire Direct, France - 43
  • Solar Cells Hellas, Greece - 32
  • JA Solar, China - 16

On the subject of chemicals and materials, six companies' products contain lead, but they all have plans to phase it out. Three companies have products that contain cadmium compounds, but do not have phase-out plans. None of the companies use mercury or other toxins that were asked about. In addition, five companies conduct lifecycle or risk analyses for new chemicals.

{related_content}Although only six said they have a recycling policy with minimum environmental, health and safety standards or labor standards, three others plan to develop similar policies.

Overall, the companies support product takeback and the concept of extended producer responsibility. Seven companies provide free recycling services to residential and commercial customers, and six companies are setting aside money for funding PV module collection and disposal.

Eight companies said they would support mandatory extended producer responsibility in the markets they sell in, which would require them to either fund or create their own collection and disposal programs.

Half of the companies have analyzed the social and environmental impacts of their supply chains, and half also have worker codes of conduct in place with their suppliers, with systems that verify their performance. None of the companies use prison labor for any stage of production or dismantling.

Cracked solar panel - / CC BY-SA 2.0