A new alliance dedicated to deploying ultra low-carbon solar energy today announced its formation. Leading renewable energy companies have joined together to launch the Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance.
The Alliance will work to build greater market awareness around how solar supply chain decarbonization is producing solar panels with low embodied carbon to help governments and companies meet aggressive sustainability goals.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the looming climate crisis have forced companies to rethink how they build their products and procure materials. Much of the focus on supply chain decarbonization has been on energy-intensive industries such as cement, steel, and glass. But the Alliance is embracing a unique opportunity to decarbonize the solar energy supply chain.
“Every solar project is dramatically better than a fossil fuel plant, but not all solar panels are created equal,” said Alliance Executive Director Michael Parr. “Solar projects can reduce their embodied carbon by 50% by using ultra low-carbon solar panels available in the market today. France, South Korea and other countries are prioritizing ultra low-carbon solar panels in projects. Companies and policymakers in the U.S. can be doing the same.”
Although solar PV technology produces no emissions in its operations, there are emissions associated with how it is produced and transported – what is called its “embodied carbon.” A study by Argonne National Laboratory found significant differences in the embodied carbon of solar panels, depending on how and where they are made. For example, solar panels produced with polysilicon from China have twice the embodied carbon as panels made with materials from the United States or EU. Thin-film solar modules show similar performance.
These ultra low-carbon solar panels are in the market today from multiple producers at competitive prices. U.S. companies are beginning to specify ultra low-carbon panels in their RFPs and demonstrate that they can significantly reduce the embodied carbon in these new energy systems without any impact on price competition.
“This technology is available today at market rates and can help companies and government cuts their projects’ carbon footprint by 50%,” added Parr. “It’s a win, win, win. It’s better for the environment, doesn’t come with a price premium, and can represent advanced manufacturing in the U.S. and EU.”
The Alliance’s founding members include:
- Hemlock Semiconductor (silicon producer in Saginaw, Michigan; recently acquired DuPont silicon business)
- First Solar (world’s largest CdTe thin-film panel producer; 1,900 MW production capacity in Perrysburg, Ohio)
- NorSun (Norwegian silicon producer; new U.S. cell producer Violet Power is a customer)
- Q CELLS (Korean crystalline silicon panel producer; 1,700 MW production capacity in Dalton, Georgia)
- REC Silicon (Norwegian silicon producer; was once producing in Moses Lake, Washington)
- Wacker (silicon producer in Charleston, Tennessee)
Members will engage in activities to educate the marketplace and policy makers about the benefits and availability of ultra low-carbon solar. The Alliance will also work with other stakeholders to develop and deploy a reliable methodology to allow companies to specify ultra-low carbon solar panels in projects.
“We’re excited to launch the Alliance and to continue growing our membership. We’re in active conversations with additional solar companies across the industry about the Alliance and the importance of further decarbonizing solar supply chains,” said Parr.
News item from ULCS Alliance
Of all of those entities mentioned it is : “First Solar (world’s largest CdTe thin-film panel producer; 1,900 MW production capacity in Perrysburg, Ohio)”, that is the most carbon neutral. Unfortunately First Solar has decided to focus only on the utility scale solar PV market with their series 6, 27 square foot solar panels. The CdTe are not as efficient as the mono-crystalline solar PV panels that can harvest up to 23% of the solar energy. First Solar is at 18% efficiency. First Solar has a “cradle to cradle” solar panel program for recycling (since 2003), First Solar has announced by 2028 all of their solar PV manufacturing facilities will be powered by (solar PV). Making solar PV panels with solar PV generated power, how much manufacturing overhead does getting rid of a monthly electric bill have on overall costs per panel? Could First Solar take business away from the crystalline PV market, with decent solar efficiency, recycling program, and for now large economies of scale production facility. First Solar might be the first to get solar PV panels down to the $0.10 to $0.12/watt price point and still make profit. It looks like the $50, 450 watt solar PV panel is on it’s way.