Suntech have been around for over 10 years they have shipped more than 7 gigawatts of solar products to customers in more than 80 countries — that’s enough panels to generate roughly 9 terawatt-hours of electricity!
As Suntech have grown, they have made sure to minimize our impact to the environment, whether that’s working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or recycling certain types of waste. Third party watchdogs have noticed our efforts; in 2011 the Carbon War Room awarded us the Gigaton Prize for our pioneering role in reducing carbon emissions around the world and leading efforts in the fight against climate change. We were also named a New Sustainability Champion by the World Economic Forum and a Global Leader by MurphySpitz for transparency as well as there exceptional environmental health and safety practices (EHS). Our commitment starts with our management structure. We regularly review and audit our environmental performance, and have structured our organization so that top executives directly oversee our EHS department. Over the years, we’ve identified three primary sustainability priorities: the reduction of greenhouse gases, wastewater and industrial residue (which includes hazardous chemicals).
Greenhouse gases. Certainly, humankind’s efforts to combat climate change depend directly on how much we can all reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At Suntech, we want to do our part. By focusing the same type of R&D efforts that enabled our technology-leading solar panels on our production processes, we’ve been able to reduce energy consumption for cell and module production by 24 percent, and phased out the use of sulfur hexafluoride in 2009. We’re working to phase out other fluoride gases, and are establishing benchmarks to identify and analyze such opportunities.
Wastewater. Through careful audits of our production processes, they have identified the two processes — air conditioning and cell manufacturing — that represent the majority of our water use. They found opportunities to treat and reuse wastewater, reduced water consumption in the wafer and cell-making process, and also use reclaimed water for recycling and production.
Industrial residue and waste. We have reduced or eliminated the use of hazardous chemicals still used by many other solar panels companies, such as cadmium and hexavalent chromium. We’re also working to develop techniques that would allow us to remove lead from our manufacturing lines and reduce chemical inputs associated with certain processes, such as phosphorous diffusion of solar cell fabrication. Of course, when chemical disposal is needed, we call upon trained, qualified third parties to conduct professional capture and recycling.
These just outline a few of our sustainability initiatives. Doing things the environmentally responsible way takes time, effort and resources, but it’s worth doing. Our sustainable future depends on it.