From the AP article by Jason Dearen:

Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes

[...] 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. [...]

New companies often send hazardous waste out of their plants because they have not yet invested in on-site treatment equipment, which allows them to recycle some waste.

Nowhere is the waste issue more evident than in California, where landmark regulations approved in the 1970s require industrial plants like solar panel makers to report the amount of hazardous materials they produce, and where they send it. California leads the consumer solar market in the U.S. — which doubled overall both in 2010 and 2011. [...]

The same level of federal data does not exist. [...]

(emphasis added)

[read the entire article at ap.org]

Tags: carbon footprint, hazardous waste disposal, hidden costs, lifecycle analysis, solar, solar panel manufacturing, solar power, toxic waste

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Replies to This Discussion

Ouch! Only government regulation would force such companies to invest in on-site waste treatment. A product label indicating the true total carbon footprint would be needed for consumers to even consider this.

Somehow I see one of the US's two major political parties as much more vehemently opposing such labeling, as infringing on the industrialists' god-given right to profit at any cost.

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