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SunPower Corporation: Cradle to Cradle Certified SunPower E and X Series DC Panels

SunPower is an industry leader in the solar panel market. The SunPower E and X Series DC Panels are unique in achieving the Cradle to Cradle Silver designation. No other solar PV panels have achieved this certification. The production of these panels with less water continues to be important worldwide.

SunPower makes solar photovoltaic systems. Their E and X Series DC Panels received Cradle to Cradle certification, one of the most rigorous product eco-labels and certified products eligible for additional points under the latest version of US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standard. These are the only solar panel to earn this designation, the company reported.

A team from SunPower and McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry assessed the panels’ performance in five certification categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy, water stewardship, and social fairness. The certification was part of the company’s ongoing efforts to integrate sustainability into every aspect of its products and operations, from non-hazardous materials to zero waste factories to supply chain sustainability.

SunPower says its systems generate more power per area, reducing their physical footprint. They need roughly 30% less land or roof space to generate the same amount of power as a conventional system. For the California Valley Solar Ranch Project, the solar arrays, substation and facility buildings are confined to 1,500 acres. The remaining 3,200 acres of the site is a permanent conservation easement for a range of protected species.

The company uses a “Light on Land” approach that minimizes its environmental footprint in ground-mounted installations and seeks to rehabilitate disturbed land. Their PV panels have the lowest degradation rate, and their long-lived products have an expected lifetime of 40 years. SunPower also says it offers a faster, more resource-efficient robotic cleaning solution that uses 75% less water compared to competitive solutions.

Their high-efficiency products generate more power for a given area, SunPower says. Sustainable manufacturing is a priority for the company, which has the industry’s first and only certified landfill-free, Cradle to Cradle factories. Their design criteria takes into account sustainable land use practices, and the company’s goal is to have the first triple certified — LEED, Landfill-Free, Cradle to Cradle — factories of any industry.

SunPower is also trying to reduce its environmental footprint by ensuring their products are Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) compliant. Their X-/E-series DC Cradle to Cradle-certified panels, which do not contain lead of cadmium, are the only non-hazardous panels in the industry by the U.S. definition, the company says. Although their PV panels have the lowest degradation rate and the longest warranty, the company has a system to take back, reuse, and responsibly recycle them.

SunPower’s life cycle assessment estimates an average of 10 to 12 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent are emitted per kilowatt-hour generated by their Cradle to Cradle-certified panels. For comparison, coal emits over 1,000 grams per kilowatt-hour. As of 2015, SunPower estimated that 35 terawatt-hours of clean, renewable energy have been generated by SunPower Photovoltaic systems. Based on the EPA’s calculator, this is equivalent to avoiding 20 million tons of carbon dioxide and the combustion of 21 billion pounds of coal.