Buyers of solar modules will soon have an easier time selecting modules produced with lower levels of embodied carbon.
Most of the world’s solar modules are produced in Southeast Asia and China, where the carbon intensity of crystalline silicon module production is more than twice that of a module manufactured in the U.S., according to the International Energy Agency.
The non-profit Global Electronics Council has established what it said is the world’s first ecolabel to set thresholds on the embodied carbon in solar PV modules and guide purchasers in search of a more environmentally friendly product.
The solar ecolabel has been added to the organization’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, which is widely used within the IT sector.
“While renewable energy is essential in the transition to the green economy, we must also consider the underlying infrastructure’s contribution to climate change,” Bob Mitchell, CEO of the Global Electronics Council, said in a statement. “The market needs a trusted methodology to evaluate the carbon emissions of solar panels during production in order to make informed purchasing decisions.”
Nastassja Hagan, vice president of sustainability at the global solar developer Lightsource bp, said procuring modules with lower embodied carbon is “critical” to meeting the company’s sustainability goals.
She added that reducing the embodied carbon in solar equipment can drastically accelerate the emissions payback period for a project from 1-3 years to less than a year, depending on the project and location.
The EPEAT criteria focus on measuring and reducing what is known as Scope 3 carbon emissions or the carbon generated in the design, material sourcing, and manufacture of these products.
The Global Electronics Council expects to launch its public registry of solar panels that meet the new criteria in late September. Solar panel manufacturers interested in registering their products against the new criteria, which includes an independent, third-party product review, may begin the process now, it said.