Company Profile

First Solar

United States

First Solar manufactures and sells photovoltaic (PV) solar modules based on thin film cadmium telluride (CdTe) semiconductor technology.

The company also designs, constructs and sells PV solar power systems using the PV modules it manufacturers. First Solar’s use of CdTe is unlike most solar cell manufacturers, which produce crystalline silicon PV cells. Although CdTe converts sunlight to electricity less efficiently than traditional silicon PV modules, CdTe has an advantage in producing electricity under lower light conditions. CdTe modules also outperform silicon competitors in numerous other areas, such as energy payback time and cost per watt. The downside of CdTe solar cells is the toxicity profile of cadmium. First Solar recognizes the potential hazards surrounding this chemical element and actively supports the nomination of CdTe for inclusion in the National Toxicology Program. Also in response to the company’s use of CdTe, First Solar requires its customers to either recycle or dispose of modules responsibly. First Solar maintains recycling facilities at all of its manufacturing plants and continually invests in recycling technology. By implementing such programs, First Solar is minimizing e-waste and preventing cadmium from entering the waste stream irresponsibly.

Like many renewable energy companies, First Solar’s environmental accounting is lacking. Portfolio 21 has asked the company to increase the transparency surrounding its direct environmental impacts. Portfolio 21 will also continue to monitor literature and legislation surrounding cadmium.

To the best of our knowledge the above information is accurate and was obtained from sources we believe to be reliable. Neither the information presented above nor any opinion expressed shall be construed as an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy the security. The views expressed are those of portfolio management as of 1/31/14 and may not reflect current opinions or subsequent events.


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