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Ohio EPA Director Visits First Solar to Recognize Company for Environmental Excellence, Leadership
Ohio EPA Director Craig W. Butler visited First Solar, Inc., in Perrysburg today to recognize the company for its ongoing efforts in environmental stewardship. He toured the facility, seeing how First Solar’s commitment to the environment goes beyond the renewable energy products the company manufactures.
Ohio EPA recognized First Solar’s environmental stewardship efforts with a gold-level award under the Agency’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program.
“Reliable renewable energy is an important segment of the nation’s energy portfolio. First Solar is manufacturing solar photovoltaic modules using byproducts from the zinc and copper industries. First Solar has consistently improved the efficiency and durability of its modules while reducing waste and recovering more than 90 percent of the semiconductor material and 90 percent of the glass for reuse in new products. First Solar is an outstanding Ohio business,” Director Butler said.
“We are extremely proud of our Northwestern Ohio manufacturing heritage which has cemented our leadership position in the industry and enables us to redefine the way the world is powered,” said Alex Heard, vice president of Global Technical Services for First Solar. “Environmental responsibility and continuous improvement are two of our core values at First Solar and we are honored to receive Ohio EPA’s E3 gold award in recognition of our operational excellence and commitment to sustainability.”
First Solar, Inc., was founded in 1999 and is a global provider of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy solutions. The company has more than 10 gigawatts installed worldwide.
First Solar’s Perrysburg facility manufactures the solar modules and also drives the company’s research and development efforts which focus on improving the efficiency, energy yield and reliability of First Solar modules. About 1,350 people are employed at the 1 million-square-foot facility which has 2.75 megawatts of solar arrays onsite.
First Solar has improved the efficiency of its solar modules in converting light to electricity from 9.5 percent in 2006 to 16 percent in 2015. Improved manufacturing throughput and module efficiency have helped reduce First Solar’s corporate carbon intensity by 27 percent since 2008. The Perrysburg conference rooms are outfitted with lighting sensors and automatic window blinds and LED light fixtures were installed throughout the building to save energy, material and labor costs.
First Solar has implemented manufacturing process changes to help reduce or eliminate hazardous waste streams. In 2011, the company began using a laser operation system rather than sand blasting to remove a section of semiconductor material from the glass panels. This eliminated the spent blasting material from the hazardous waste stream, reduced the facility’s annual waste by 16,000 pounds and allowed laser-removed dust to be recovered. First Solar has a corporate policy encouraging employees to innovate ways to reduce waste and minimize environmental impact. This has led to greater efficiency, less waste generation and reduced water and energy use.
Ohio EPA’s E3 program acknowledges Ohio businesses and other organizations for completing environmentally beneficial activities and serves as an incentive to commit to ongoing environmental stewardship. To earn a gold-level award, an organization must have an excellent environmental compliance record, exceed regulatory compliance obligations and commit to long-term strategies to reduce waste, lower emissions and improve environmental performance.
To learn more about the E3 program, go to www.epa.ohio.gov/ohioe3.aspx or contact the Ohio EPA Office of Compliance Assistance and Pollution Prevention at 1-800-329-7518.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1972 to consolidate efforts to protect and improve air quality, water quality and waste management in Ohio. Since then, air pollutants dropped by as much as 90 percent; large rivers meeting standards improved from 21 percent to 89 percent; and hundreds of polluting, open dumps were replaced with engineered landfills and an increased emphasis on waste reduction and recycling.