Jinko Solar - Tiger Neo Bifacial Solar Panel

overall rating:

1.5

planets

AbdulHameed Raji
3/14/2022
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Jinko manufactures solar panels on a large-scale and serves international customers. While it is a great feat that it contributes nothing on the operations side, it is clear that a lot needs to happen between the extraction stages up to the manufacturing process. Jinko uses a lot of energy, gas and generates a lot of waste.  Jinko has done well by automating its processes, accounting for its resource needs and usage, making reduced carbon commitments, and being recognised as a to manufacturer in a solar scorecard. The concern, however, is that these actions are still on the surface level and impact on sustainability needs to be properly tracked and stated.

What it's made of:

1.5

The Tiger Neo is Jinko’s most recent and up-to-date solar module capable of generating 620W of solar power with more than 22% efficiency and about 30 years of operability. It is produced to generate energy from both sides and has a bi-faciality of 85%. Solar panels are usually made of layers with each layer forming a wafer. The Tiger Neo wafer is made of a coating, glass, and the solar cells. It is made of 156 negative-type mono-crystalline cells per module. The glass is made of anti-reflection coating to trap light rays, low iron and tempered to avoid damage. To maintain a solid structure, it is made of anodised aluminium alloys. Some of its useful features include high resistance to mist and ammonia withstanding extreme chemical reactions and environmental conditions. It can also withstand high pressure especially wind and snow impacts and weights. 

The information on the composition is not adequate enough to make comments on process optimisation and resource efficiency. However, it is important to point out that mono-crystalline solar cells (are made from silicon) and tempered glasses (need to undergo a heat treatment process)  require high heat and are energy intensive in terms of production. The dilemma here is that most of the composition of this solar panel is recyclable. The issue here is the knowledge of how Jinko does its manufacturing process is unknown. Hence, it cannot be determined if these materials under Jinko’s roof have a net zero footprint.

How it's made:

1.75

The production cycle goes from acquiring the ingot, making the wafer, adding some components to make the cell to the factory line where the modules are assembled. Finally, it is delivered to the customers with sales and service provision. Across the lifecycle of the product, the extraction process is assumed to be similar to what the solar industry employs as there is nothing specific to Jinko at the moment. There is little information on transportation (which is currently associated with high carbon emissions) and on-site installations. However, Jinko discusses considerably on its energy use, manufacturing, environmental impact, quality, employee, and suppliers which are critical to producing the solar cells. For manufacturing, Jinko uses robotics for precision operations and automates some of the processes. This has led to shorter manufacturing, optimised production, and lower costs. In addition to this, the modules undergo about 52 quality control and inspection steps working on a zero defects objective and continuous monitoring. 

In terms of energy use, Jinko used 1.883TWh of energy across its assets in 2019 but it is not clear if its sources are low-carbon emitters. That same year, it used 2,159,865 metre-cube of natural gas recording a gradual decline in gas consumption. Although gas is said to be a transiting fuel, it is still a carbon emitting source and Jinko should use less of it.  One thing Jinko does well is being transparent with their resource usage from water, gas to energy. Due to the large number of materials needed, Jinko ensures its supplies meet some conditions before they are onboarded as partners such as using recycled materials, local suppliers, promoting simplified packaging and avoidance of toxic materials. According to Jinko, its employees undergo several training sessions with 316,768 hour of training time across health, safety, operations, and social interactions. It has a female workforce to the tune of 27% and 30% of those that attend training are women. Overall, Jinko’s strategy cuts across all functions but there are still points of improvement. 

Who makes it:

1.5

Jinko Solar is a global solar manufacturer and one of the most innovative with some of the highest revenue in the industry and 80GW of solar panels supplied in the first half of 2021. It has a market capitalisation of 2.473billion United States Dollars and annual revenue of $5.09billion as of March 2022. Jinko Solar originating from China has presence in several high-income countries with more than 15,000 employees and several subsidiaries. In Europe, Jinko has delivered 52GW of energy controlling about 12.8% of the market, maintained a gradual growth maintaining a market leader role providing 6.7GW of solar energy capacity in 2016 to 14.3GW in 2019. According to Bloomberg NEF, Jinko is one of the most bankable solar producers achieving 100% bankability in 2017, 2018 & 2020 and labelled a Tier 1 Manufacturer for eight years running. With a predictive rise in demand for mono-crystalline solar modules, Jinko prioritised mono- over poly-crystalline modules with a significant drop in share of poly-crystalline modules produced and a sharp rise in mono. Jinko has stated some of its responsible manufacturing processes such as life cycle considerations, resource input reduction and designated recycling units in each of the continents.

Jinko is also recognised as a top Solar manufacturer winning awards across several continents but none of those highlights to what extent it performs excellently in carbon reduction before operation (i.e., embodied emissions). In terms of sustainability, Jinko focuses on social responsibility, responsible manufacturing, and electrification. Jinko committed to the RE100 and EP100 green initiatives to source all of its electricity demand and supply from renewables and released its RE100 roadmap with stated electrification and resource optimisation objectives. However, what is not measured cannot be monitored. In 2019, Jinko recorded a 100% score in Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition’s Solar Scorecard clearing all the ratings under the extended producer responsibility, emissions reporting & reduction, worker rights, health & safety, supply chains, energy use & greenhouse gas emissions, water, conflict materials, module toxicity and recycled contents. This leaves Jinko as maintaining one of the highest standards in sustainable manufacturing according to SVTC but gaining this recognition across several organisations is key for assurance. Jinko has made some big commitments but cannot be totally verified without a sustainability product and process audit.