Green Solar Cells: The New Love Canal?
Install solar panels, and save the planet! Well, not so fast. Solar cells are high-tech electronic products that contain hazardous materials. Mother Jones took a look at the solar industry, and what they found isn’t pretty. It cites a survey conducted by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) with 25 solar cell companies, and this is what was found: http://motherjones.com/blue-marble/2010/03/are-your-solar-panels-toxic
– Six companies reported their products contain lead.
– Three companies said their products contain cadmium, a known carcinogen.
– One company uses nitrogen triflouride, a potent greenhouse gas 17,000 times more powerful than CO2.
This is only on the production side, and does not look at how production is done in China, for example, where many cells are produced cheaply and with practically no environmental standards.
Then there are the environmental hazards of disposing of used solar cells.
Keep in mind that many are being replaced long before their 20 year lifetime is reached because the new ones are more efficient. California and Europe have exempted solar manufacturers from strict recycling laws. Solar panel manufacturers are barricading against any regulation that would require them to deal with the waste they produce. Indeed only eight companies said they would support “extended producer responsibility” laws that would require them to take back and recycle their waste.
So just how much waste is expected to be produced?
In the coming years, SVTC estimates that 1.5 billion pounds of solar panel waste containing 2 million pounds of lead and 600,000 pounds of cadmium will be disposed of in California alone.
Now just throw in all those mercury-filled light bulbs, and you get your Green Revolution (For the toxic material industry, that is).