Why Solar Panels Are Bad For Our Planet
All manufactured goods use a variety of chemicals both in their final construction and in the processes used to produce them.
All chemicals and elements have some degree of toxicity, that is, they have a negative effect on biological life. Effective end-of-life recycling strategies need to be developed during the next decade.
Solar panels are bad for the environment because toxic chemicals are used in their manufacture. The fabrication processes have waste products which can be harmful to human health and the ecology. Old solar panels may become toxic waste due to the heavy metal content of the solar cells and other contaminants.
Video: Solar panels – more cons than pros?
What is the average life expectancy of solar panels?
Most manufacturers give a warranty of 25 years with a guarantee of 90% output after that time.
However, good quality panels will continue to generate power for up to 50 years, gradually reducing power output as they age. In general, solar cells lose about 0.8% of their output watts per year of use.
Tests done on solar installations 40 year and older suggest that solar output may almost stop at 70% and stay at that level for many years.
What are the toxic components of solar panels?
There are two parts to the problem of solar panel toxicity:
- Chemicals used during manufacture and their waste products
- Toxic compounds used in the panel structure and the potential for environmental damage
Compounds used during solar panel manufacture include:
- hydrochloric acid
- sulfuric acid
- hydrogen fluoride
- nitric acid
It’s up to the manufacturer to ensure that these chemical residues are disposed of in the correct way. Unfortunately, this is not always the case so pollution is rampant.
Another equally pressing problem is the heavy metals, chemicals and plastic compounds locked up inside the solar panel itself.
- silicon tetrachloride (highly toxic)
- copper indium gallium (di)selenide
- polyvinyl fluoride
- cadmium gallium (di)selenide
- cadmium telluride
- copper indium selenide
They’re all pretty nasty and for most of the solar panel’s life they are locked up inside the structure.
Unfortunately, end-of-life management of current solar power systems does not include a viable recycling program to effectively remove the toxic effects of landfill waste from solar.
Companies are experimenting with recycling and 100% recycling is possible. However, it costs 3 times more than burying the panels in landfill.
In the current climate of corporate disregard for anything but profit, it’s easy to see where old panels will go!
How many solar panels installed per day globally?
A huge 500000 solar panels are installed daily around the world and the pace is likely to increase.
It’s been calculated that solar panels produce hundreds of times more harmful waste than the nuclear industry, so end-of-life management is crucial.
If the average weight of a commercial solar panel is 20kg, then 500000 solar panels equates to 10000 tons per day, or 3.65 million tons of solar panel waste per year.
If these are destined for landfill, we have a serious problem.
Are there non toxic solar panels?
A research team led by Dr. Jin-Kyu Kang are developing solar panels made from bronze (Cu-Sn) and brass (Cu-Zn), metals abundant in the earth and non-toxic.
It’s an exciting proposition which will help to eliminate the toxicity associated with current solar panels.
The biggest drawback is that the efficiency is less than standard panels, but they’re working on it!
What are the negative effects of solar panels?
The biggest negative effect is to the environment in the form of toxic waste elements.
The only effective way round this is to recycle the toxic compounds into new panels, but this is expensive. Another very minor negative effect is that some people don’t like the way they look on the roof.
Why solar panels are not worth it?
The main reason that solar panels aren’t worth it is because of the environmental effect of the waste products.
Solar panels may not be worth it if you live in a location with a poor irradiance due to regular heavy cloud cover or way up in the north where the sun’s energy is low.
What are the 2 main disadvantages to solar energy?
The two main disadvantages of solar energy are:
- they generate little power when the weather is poor
- they produce no power at night and batteries are required
Why is my electric bill so high with solar panels?
Your solar system may be undersized for the level of irradiance in your location.
What happens to solar panels after 25 years?
Most guarantees expire at the 25 year mark, but solar panels will keep generating power for many more years.
Solar cells reduce their output by about 0.8% each year, but may generate electricity at about 70% of capacity when new for up to 25 more years!
Resources – The Truth About Solar Panels:
Solar Energy’s Secret – Hazardous Waste: The Case for a National Recycling Framework
Environmental Impact of Solar Panel Manufacturing and End-of-Life Management: Technology and Policy Options
Solar Panel Recycling Companies – US
Morgen Industries Inc