9 June 2022
First Solar’s Ohio complex rated Platinum in RBA’s Validated Assessment Program audit
Cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film photovoltaic (PV) module maker First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA says that its 2.7GWDC vertically integrated manufacturing complex in Ohio has achieved Platinum status in a Responsible Business Alliance (RBA) Validated Assessment Program (VAP) audit. Platinum is the highest rating awarded on completion of a full VAP audit, which is considered a leading standard for onsite compliance verification and effective, shareable social and environmental audits across industries.
The audit was conducted at First Solar’s manufacturing facilities in Perrysburg and Lake Township, Ohio, by independent third-party auditors specially trained in social and environmental auditing and the VAP audit protocol. It covered the full scope of the VAP, including fair labor practices and human rights, health & safety measures, environmental performance, business integrity, ethics, and supporting management systems. The rating is valid until 5 May 2024.
“The fact that we achieved Platinum status on our first try is a tribute to the passion and purpose of our people who exemplify First Solar’s commitment to responsible solar,” says CEO Mark Widmar. “We have demonstrated that competitiveness and scale do not need to come at the cost of people or the environment, and that our country’s transition to a sustainable energy future can be powered by responsibly produced solar technology.”
First Solar joined the RBA (the world’s largest industry coalition dedicated to supporting the rights and well-being of workers and communities in the global supply chain) in 2021. The audit of its Ohio facilities was the first in a series of VAP audits that are expected to also include its other manufacturing facilities in Malaysia and Vietnam.
“Completion of this audit demonstrates that responsible solar is central to the way we operate. It impacts everything we do, from how we treat our people to the care with which we manage our supply chains,” says chief manufacturing operations officer Mike Koralewski. “It also demonstrates to the solar industry that credible onsite social auditing and supply chain due diligence frameworks exist and that we do not need to invent tailor-made solutions.”
First Solar’s Northwest Ohio footprint is the Western Hemisphere’s largest solar manufacturing complex. The firm is investing $680m in building a third factory that will expand the complex by an annual capacity of 3.3GW. The new facility is expected to be commissioned in first-half 2023 and, when fully operational, will scale the company’s Ohio footprint to a total annual capacity of 6GW (making it the largest fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing complex outside China). First Solar has already invested over $2bn in its US manufacturing footprint and, when its third factory is fully operational, will directly employ over 2500 people in Ohio while supporting an estimated 15,000 indirect jobs through its American supply chain.
In addition to its Ohio manufacturing facilities, First Solar also operates factories in Vietnam and Malaysia, and is building a new 3.3GW factory in India that is expected to be commissioned in second-half 2023. With First Solar’s expansion in the USA and India and optimization of its existing fleet, the firm expects that its nameplate manufacturing capacity will double to 16GW in 2024. First Solar is the only US-headquartered company among the world’s ten largest solar manufacturers.