First Solar

2021 Engagement Case Study:

First Solar is a US-based manufacturer of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels. Headquartered in Arizona, the company is the leading supplier of thin-film modules that are used primarily in utility-scale and commercial power plants.

Engagement issue

Engagement objective
We have been engaging with First Solar to better understand their approach to biodiversity and the potential impacts associated with solar farms. First Solar has sold its project development business but nonetheless as a supplier of solar modules has an important role to play in addressing biodiversity impacts, in our view.

Scope and Process
Renewable energy generation is central to tackling climate change which is itself a major threat to biodiversity. At the same time, the deployment of wind turbines and solar panels can also have direct impacts on biodiversity. These can be negative, but if well managed they can also be positive.

Outcome: Successful
The company has been reasonably proactive on this topic and has worked directly with environmental NGOs such as WWF in order identify best practices in solar park development and has also contributed to academic and industry research aimed at codifying best practices.

Much of this work is though quite old, and more recent research has indicated that with sensitive siting, construction, operations and decommissioning, solar parks can have a positive impact on biodiversity. This is particularly true in areas that have previously been intensively farmed or have otherwise been developed such as airports or brown field sites.

We have been pleased to see that First Solar has taken a proactive approach to encouraging best practices in mitigating negative and maximising the positive impacts of solar power on biodiversity. We have encouraged them to continue with this leadership and to report more comprehensively on their activities.