This isn’t news to our readers, but it may come as a surprise to others. Solar panel production is terrible for the environment. Taxpayers have been squeezed to prop up fabrication. They’ve ponied up incentives for installation. State’s are forcing them to pay more for the power. They should not be forced to pay for clean up. But no one has a plan, and Solar Panel waste is a looming catastrophe.
Are We Ignoring a Real Threat?
Canada Free Press itemized the Solar Power disaster on our doorstep, and there is nothing green about it.
- According to federal data, building solar panels significantly increases emissions of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), which is 17,200 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 100 year time period.
- Solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than do nuclear power plants.
- Solar panels contain lead, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals that cannot be removed without breaking apart the entire panel.
- In November 2016, Japan’s Environment Ministry issued a warning that the amount of solar panel waste Japan produces each year is likely to increase from 10,000 to 800,000 tons by 2040.
- While disposal of solar panels has taken place in regular landfills, it is not recommended because the modules can break and toxic materials can leach into the soil, causing problems with drinking water.
- Contrary to previous assumptions, pollutants such as lead or carcinogenic cadmium can be almost completely washed out of the fragments of solar modules over a period of several months by rainwater.
- Natural events damage or destroy solar installations washing toxic metals into local groundwater.
There is near to Zero Accountability and No Plan
Japan has no plan. China, the largest user of solar, has no plan. In places like China (India and Ghana), people who live near e-waste landfills burn the panels to get at the copper wiring. The burning releases toxic smoke and fumes that are carcinogenic and teratogenic (birth-defect causing) into the atmosphere.
In the US only Washington State, according to the report, requires manufacturers to have a recycling plan. But there is no language to address cost. Given that Solar companies, many started or propped up with taxpayer dollars, fail frequently, there may often be no “manufacturer” to address a plan (if there is one) or the cost.
Failed Solar manufacturers leave behind a toxic mess for taxpayers to clean up. In 2013, we reported on the failure of Abound Solar, the toxic mess, and the estimated 3.7 million dollar clean up costs. Abound isn’t the only example.
Europe does require manufacturers to collect and recycle old or damaged Solar Panels. But I doubt they are doing it for free. The cost is built in somewhere or there is a fee at the point of collection. If taxpayers are not paying, fine. If they are, it’s not good enough.
Help US Free Market; You’re Our Only Hope.
Some manufacturers recycle their product (or compatible competitors product), but because it is not lucrative or mandated, it’s not a business venture that will find much private money, yet. But it has potential. First, it’s an environmental catastrophe if nothing happens. Second, there are a lot of these panels out there, and more are on the way. By 2030 there will be millions of these coming out of service. If someone can come up with a lucrative solution, the market is open and huge.
A plan that makes money without taxpayer bailouts on both ends would be great. But can it happen?
And will states like New Hampshire happy to force ratepayers to pay more for the electricity protect them from the cost of recycling or proper disposal? There’s no evidence yet in the Granite State that they will. Given how much money these programs vacuum up from residents we had best start thinking about holding someone accountable who made them, installed them, or used them.
If they don’t we will all be saddled with that cost too.