How Toxic Are Solar Panels Really?
Solar power is known as one of the greenest forms of renewable energy available in today’s world. The question still keeps cropping up, however….. How green are solar panels really? And is there any level of toxicity involved in the panels, the installation, and the production of solar panels?
These are all areas of concern that should be looked into in order to determine if solar panels are not only worth investing in. Is this technology really as green as the renewable energy sector claims it is?
Toxic Manufacturing Process
In order to produce solar paneling, some chemicals are required. This includes hydrofluoric acid and sodium hydroxide. Water and electricity are also used in the production process, and while these alone do not create toxins, once they are combined with the aforementioned chemicals they create a substantial amount of greenhouse gases. This does not mean, however, that not all companies produce the same amount of greenhouse gases.
Companies’ Level of Toxicity
The Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition looks over several different variables when trying to determine how environmentally friendly companies are that produce this type of technology.
This includes factors like:
- water use
- recycling methods
- chemical toxicity
Trina has the lowest emissions when it comes to producing solar technology. SunPower out of California comes in at a close second place with very low levels of toxicity during the manufacturing process.
Unfortunately, all of the information used to score the toxicity of a company comes directly from the companies themselves, so there’s no telling how accurate these rating actually are. In recent years, the Silicon Valley Toxic Coalition has indicated that solar panel manufacturers have reduced the amount of information shared with them. It seems that nearly a quarter of all solar panel manufacturers withhold almost all of the information needed to properly assess them. This is especially true for companies that a manufacture generic solar panels. This is also the why consumers are encouraged to research the products they intend to purchase.
Solar Industry Cover Up
There is no substantial cover-up regarding greenhouse gases and solar paneling. However, with the popularity of solar power increasing every year, there are many in the industry who do not want all this type of information to be public knowledge. Luckily, the information is readily available, but some companies are diluting information regarding toxic waste and greenhouse gases in order to focus on the renewable energy element.
Environmental Standards Differ
While the cleanest solar panel manufacturer is based in China, environmental standards in China are not as high when compared to the United States and in Europe. The carbon footprint from Chinese manufacturers is often twice that of companies based in Europe.
Location can have a massive impact on how toxic the panels are.When looking at panels, it is important to take into consideration not only what company is manufacturing the products, but also where the company is based.
The Verdict On Solar’s Toxicity
With all the challenges the solar industry has, it’s important to keep perspective the global picture. Once solar is installed, it generates electricity with zero emissions. Even though toxic compounds are used in the manufacturing process, the significance solar and its benefits for the planet is hard to ignore. Coal-fired power plants alone are responsible for 1,999.6 million tons of carbon dioxide in the United States annually.
Solar’s safety record is equally hard to ignore. It’s not only safer for the environment when compared to other forms of energy like coal, natural gas, and nuclear fission, but it also offers less danger for workers in the trade.
Considering that solar is a relatively new form of renewable energy that is now experiencing a boom like never before, there remains alot of optimism. As the industry matures, solar companies will adopt stronger sustainability measures and continue to improve the viability of this renewable energy so that we can ensure a viable power source for future generations.