In Buffalo-Niagara we have the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the Western hemisphere — which is why we’re taking the lead in introducing a more regenerative approach to the solar panel industry. This includes working to reduce the carbon and chemical footprints of solar manufacturing. And helping cities and towns develop new civic entrepreneurial programs for job creation, community empowerment and better inclusivity. What’s new is that we’re taking a data-driven approach that includes both human and environmental health factors as we work with industry to design earth-friendly materials and processes.
Aligning Industry and Sustainability Priorities
Our goal is to address the long-term needs of both solar panel manufacturers and our communities - without compromising either group’s priorities. Here are a few examples of how we will work to create solutions that benefit both groups:
Explore low-cost biodegradable materials that improve profitability for manufacturers while also lowering the risk to human health and the environment.
Help manufacturers secure reliable access to their materials, while lowering their chemical and carbon footprints and impact on surrounding communities.
Ensure that manufacturers have access to skilled workers, while also providing safe, well-paying jobs for vulnerable industrial communities
For this approach to succeed, we must actively engage industry and community leaders in every step of the process; and provide manufacturers and community leaders with the tools needed to understand these new approaches, analyze the risks and cost-benefits, and implement solutions that work better for the collective whole.
Most of the solar cells that are currently being manufactured are known as “second-generation” solar cells. Since these cells are already in production, our goal is to work within current manufacturing processes to understand and minimize the risks associated with these cells.
In the future, most solar cells will likely use “third-generation” technology. Because manufacturers are still developing the materials and processes for these third-generation solar cells, we have an opportunity to embed new considerations into the design phase of these cells (and manufacturing processes).