Excerpt from Military Times
Solar Energy…Solar’s Dirty Little Secret Solar energy is touted as clean, however, The Associated Press has reported that many panel makers are grappling with a 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 toxic sludge and contaminated water. To dispose of this material, thee 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 that solar is cleaner than it really is. A study by Environmental Progress (EP) warns that toxic waste from used solar panels now poses a global environmental threat.
Last November, Japan’s Environmental Ministry issued a stark warning; the amount of solar panel waste Japan produces every year will rise from 10,000 to 800,000 tons by 2040, and the nation has no plans of disposing it. Neither does California, a leader in deploying solar panels.
Only Europe requires a solar panel maker to collect and dispose of solar waste at the end of their 118 lives.* All of which raises the question: just how big of a problem is solar waste? EP investigated the problem to see how it compared to the much more high-profile issue of nuclear waste as well.
Solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than do nuclear plants. While nuclear waste is contained in heavy drums and regularly monitored, solar waste outside of Europe today ends up in the larger global stream of electronic waste. This will also be a problem in the US, which has more than 1.4 million solar energy installations now in use, including many already near the end of their 25 year lifespan.