Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes

AP Homeowners on the hunt for sparkling solar panels are lured by ads filled with images of pristine landscapes and bright sunshine, and words about the technology’s benefits for the environment — and the wallet.

What customers may not know is that there’s a dirtier side.

While solar is a far less polluting energy source than coal or natural gas, many panel makers are nevertheless grappling with a hazardous waste problem. Fueled partly by billions in government incentives, the industry is creating millions of solar panels each year and, in the process, millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water.

To dispose of the material, the companies must transport it by truck or rail far from their own plants to waste facilities hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of miles away.

The fossil fuels used to transport that waste, experts say, is not typically considered in calculating solar’s carbon footprint, giving scientists and consumers who use the measurement to gauge a product’s impact on global warming the impression that solar is cleaner than it is.

After installing a solar panel, “it would take one to three months of generating electricity to pay off the energy invested in driving those hazardous waste emissions out of state,” said Dustin Mulvaney, a San Jose State University environmental studies professor who conducts carbon footprint analyses of solar, biofuel and natural gas production. more at AP

1 comment to Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes

  • The production of most hi-tech stuff involves significant toxic waste and depends on petro to procure/move/process the raw materials. Cheap energy is what enabled the economies since the industrial revolution. We need to learn to live lo-tech.
    It won’t be easy, because most 1st-worlders don’t realize how unnatural our lifestyle really is. And by ‘unnatural’, I really do mean ‘contrary to nature’.

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