Sunshine or Gloom: How safe are solar panels?

January 21, 2009 / 2 Comments

Solar energy is hailed as the savior of mankind from the impending doom of global warming and along with hydrogen powered fuel cells, it’s solar energy that is expected to cater our energy needs in the centuries to come.

Many European countries and states like California have a very aggressive solar energy program and are riding high on the golden wings of solar power. But how safe is this path in the long term? How much damage does solar energy cause to the planet? Surely, solar energy is all green a d 100% planet-friendly, right? Well, WRONG, say the experts following it closely.

solar panels Sunshine or Gloom: How safe are solar panels?

A report released by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition warns the solar industry that it could face an e-waste problem head on and is risking “repeating the mistakes made by the microelectronics industry.”

According to the SVTC, there is plenty of toxic waste that is being released by solar industry, which is going unnoticed under the radar. We are so happy about the clean results that we “neglect” to see the underlying danger. Silicon tetrachloride, for example, is a by-product that makes land unsuitable for growing crops. For each ton of polysilicon produced by the solar industry for its solar panels, four tons of silicon tetrachloride is generated! Imagine …

Surely this report will not slow down the wave of solar energy that is just starting to spread across the globe, but SVTC advises to take note and tone down on the toxicity of the products used and to use high quality chemicals despite them being a tad bit more costly. Also recommended are ‘Takeback Programs’ where manufacturers are supposed to take back their products when they are done. However, this looks unlikely with the long lifespan of the panels and the change in technologies by that time.

While there is no need to sound the alarm bells yet (or is it?), it is important to realize and understand that solar energy is not as clean as it made out to be.

What do you guys think?

Image courtesy of clownfish