“The use of renewable energy is a strategic move for ensuring corporate sustainability”

Expert Interview – April 24, 2024

Gonzalo de la Viña, Head of Europe, Trina Solar

Trina Solar was included in the Top 100 Innovators of the Global Energy Transition 2022 by Reuters The company has received several awards for its Vertex PV modules for its low carbon emissions in the manufacturing process, including from TÜV Rheinland in Germany.

We asked Gonzalo de la Viña, Head of Europe at Trina Solar, how Trina is reducing its emissions and how important climate neutrality is for companies in general.

Interview with Gonzalo de la Viña, Head of Europe, Trina Solar

How important is the carbon footprint of modules for your customers? Does this give Trina a competitive advantage in the highly competitive PV market?

The 3rd party recognitions we receive on a regular basis are an outcome of our continuous and systematic strive to minimize the environmental footprint of our products and operations. This initiative has two key components. First, Trina Solar is committed to achieving lasting sustainability in its input, namely through sustainable usage of water, energy, and raw materials during production. Second, Trina Solar manages its overall output by reducing various forms of waste produced in the company’s operations. As a result, we are the first PV manufacturer to own a certified carbon-neutral factory, namely our Vertex manufacturing base in Yiwu, China.

We are driven by our vision to benefit mankind with clean energy. Many of our customers share that vision, which results in long-lasting business partnerships. Particularly in the utility-scale segment, and not just in ESG investing, many companies are built on sustainable investment principles, and they regularly report business decisions to their stakeholders. For those market players, partnering with suppliers who are leading in reducing environmental impact is not optional, but mandatory.

How does Trina manage to reduce electricity consumption in production?

Trina Solar has always been committed to the low-carbon operations of all manufacturing factories. We issue and implement internal rules and regulations, including the Energy & Resource Management Procedure, the Energy Measurement and Management Procedure, and the Energy Review Procedure, to continuously consolidate our awareness of energy consumption and optimize energy efficiency.

We invest in innovation and R&D to introduce high efficiency products, which use less electricity and less materials per watt for manufacturing. For example, we have upgraded our solar modules from P type PERC to N type i-TOPCon cell technology. The brand-new Vertex N and Vertex S+ generate up to 6% more power per module comparing to their previous generations.

What role do energy management systems and other intelligent solutions play in this?

Trina Solar uses systematic management methods (ISO50001 Energy management systems) to continuously reduce energy consumption and improve energy utilization. By setting and implementing company-wide targets for energy management and renewable energy utilization, we continuously enhance energy consumption efficiency and minimize the impact of our production and operations on the ecosystem.

Production at Trina's Vertex Factory is carbon-neutral.

Your Vertex Super Factory in Yiwu, China, has been recognized as a zero carbon factory. How has Trina achieved this?

As an evolution of the Green Factory, the Net Zero Factory is an important milestone in the company's low-carbon manufacturing transition. To satisfy the Net Zero requirements, the factory has to establish the necessary carbon emissions management mechanisms to ensure that it can continuously maintain the net zero status. At a technical level, energy conservation and carbon reduction have to be carried out in a comprehensive and scientific manner by prioritizing energy efficiency improvement, clean energy alternatives, carbon capture and storage, and more extensive emissions reduction offsetting mechanisms. With the excellent performance of a 21.77% decrease of the carbon emission per unit output(tCO2e/MW) and 9.51% decrease of the power consumption per unit product (kWh/MW) in 2022 compared to 2021.

March 23rd at 8:30am local time was "Earth Hour". Trina is supporting the "Give an Hour for Earth" campaign together with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). What is it all about?

Our cooperation with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) started in 2022 and we jointly launched “Clean Energy for Earth" campaign, a new initiative of Earth Hour, the world’s most influential public environmental protection campaign. The initiative is jointly sponsored by WWF, One Planet Foundation and Trina Solar, and echoed by hundreds of companies and organizations. With the theme of “Shape Our Future with Clean Energy”, it advocates for the active participation of individuals, communities, businesses and governments in using and promoting clean and renewable energy, creating a new low-carbon world, allowing us to share a greener and brighter future. The initiative aims to share knowledge about climate change, advocate changes in personal behaviors, and promote clean and renewable energy solutions.

More specifically, we work with the China National Textile and Apparel Council and WWF to build a net-zero industrial zone in Nantong, Jiangsu Province and a number of companies of the Textile and Apparel Council cooperate with Trina Solar and Trina Storage to facilitate the low-carbon transition of their factories. In 2024, we will continue working with our partners to organize public events and share more clean energy solutions and application cases.

In your opinion, how important is it for companies in general to become climate neutral? How can they benefit from this?

Leveraging the benefits of solar energy to meet power requirements is a big step towards becoming climate neutral as a business. Some benefits are economic, some are social, and some are environmental, but the outcome is the same.

  • Greater savings: Going solar may be an investment up front, but tax incentives and government programs have made the payback period shorter than ever. The savings are climbing even higher as the true cost of fossil-fuel-derived power is passed on to the customer — a cost that can be stabilized as companies use PV to lock in their long-term electricity expenses.
  • Revenue opportunities: Self-consuming companies make only enough power for themselves, but those that produce extra power may improve profitability by selling the remainder back to the grid. This opens up new channels for revenue, and other incentives like carbon credits can improve profit margins too.
  • Better branding: Shifting to solar PV can have a positive impact on its sales performance. An environmentally conscious brand image can resonate with customers, making them more likely to buy their products.
  • Fewer emissions: Perhaps most importantly, installing PV reduces the amount of greenhouse gasses (GHG) released into the atmosphere, combating climate change and making our world a cleaner place.

The use of clean, renewable energy for businesses is not only feasible but a strategic move for ensuring environmental and corporate sustainability.

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