I recently had the privilege of joining SunPower’s Director of Sustainability, Marissa Yao, on a trip to SunPower’s solar panel manufacturing facility in Mexicali, Mexico. The goal of the trip was to see firsthand what it really means to create a sustainable product from start to finish.
While I knew that Mexicali was a special site, it greatly exceeded my expectations. The solar panel plant was already the first in the company to earn a Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver recognition and now, as SunPower announced today, it’s the first of any industry location in Mexico to be third-party verified as landfill-free.
This site is raising the bar for what it means to manufacture products. These two achievements have been accomplished in less than 18 months, a reflection of the site’s leadership and its employees’ commitment to sustainability.
Upon arrival, my first sight was a 500-kilowatt solar carport like no other. More than 1,700 panels are in place, powering the factory that made them. It has lush green plants growing vertically between rows of parked cars, something I’ve never seen. The grey water produced from cleaning the carport’s solar panels is collected and used to hydrate the thriving plant beds.
Once inside the facility, I noticed a notepad shaped like a SunPower® solar cell and assumed it was just a clever office supply. But I soon learned that the notepads were actually pieces of paper collected during the panel manufacturing process. What a creative idea, taking something that once was thought of as trash and upcycling it, turning it into something quite useful.
To me, this was a concrete example of how far SunPower is willing to go when it comes to sustainability. The fact that we consider something so small to be so significant shows how people are thinking differently at this company, finding unique ways to reuse materials that might otherwise be tossed out with the trash. It’s a lesson that can be used by any industry.
The facility treats its leftover production materials not as “waste” but as valuable resources that are a precious commodity. Security guards watch over the bundles of paper, glass, plastic, panels and aluminum that will be repurposed and reused.
When it comes to food waste, the plant uses an industrial compost machine that can turn 200 pounds of food scraps into compost in half a day. That nutrient-rich compost will be used in a greenhouse that's under construction to provide fresh produce for the 1,300 employees who work at the site.
The Mexicali plant is a true example of SunPower's commitment to sustainability. We take a holistic approach, ensuring that our solutions not only provide sustainable renewable energy, but that they’re also manufactured, deployed and managed in a responsible and thoughtful way that is good for people and the planet.
While I knew that making socially and environmentally sustainable products was part of SunPower’s DNA, our SunPower Mexico site and my fellow employees there demonstrated that commitment to me firsthand. I came back more inspired than ever to continue with our mission to change the way the world is powered.
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