Solar Panels Produce Tons of Toxic Waste—Literally

There is a growing public awareness that so-called environmentally friendly energy sources like wind turbines and solar panels aren’t so environmentally friendly, after all. Whether it be thousands of non-recyclable wind turbine blades arriving at landfills, or the growing recognition that solar panels contain toxic heavy metals that can pose a risk to the environment should they leak out of the panels, the environmental costs of “renewable” energy are becoming more clear everyday.
by Isaac Orr @ Center of the American Experiment

What’s inside?

There are some chemicals used in the manufacturing process to prepare silicon and make the wafers for monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. One of the most toxic chemicals created as a byproduct of this process is silicon tetrachloride. This chemical, if not handled and disposed of properly, can lead to burns on your skin, harmful air pollutants that increase lung disease, and if exposed to water can release hydrochloric acid, which is a corrosive substance bad for human and environmental health.

For any user of solar panels, this is not an immediate risk as it only affects manufacturers and recyclers. More disconcerting, however, is the environmental impact of these chemicals. Based on installed capacity and power-related weight, we can estimate that by 2016, photovoltaics had spread about 11,000 tons of lead and about 800 tons of cadmium. A hazard summary of cadmium compounds produced by the EPA points out that exposure to cadmium can lead to serious lung irritation and long-lasting impairment of pulmonary functions. Exposure to lead hardly needs further explanation.

(Image of damaged solar panels after 2018 hurricane in Puerto Rico Forbes.com )

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