Why is solar called “clean” energy when it’s so dirty? Wait… what? We’ll say it again. Solar is DIRTY energy. How can we say such a heretical thing? We say it because it’s true. The disposal of toxic solar panels is creating a large and growing environmental hazard. After watching this video check out “Wind Waste” to learn about solar’s ugly twin.
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If solar panels produce “clean energy”, why are they so dirty? Solar power has been sold to the public as a much more environmentally friendly way to produce electricity than coal, nuclear, and even natural gas. But take a closer look. You’ll see solar isn’t as sunny as you’ve been led to believe.
Building solar panels requires a lot of mining for critical metals and rare earth minerals. But the mining doesn’t end once the solar panels are built. When they wear out in 25 to 30 years, they have to be replaced. Solar has an infinite mining and manufacturing problem.
Replacing the photovoltaic panels is where the real nastiness comes in. That’s because photovoltaics can’t be recycled economically and disposing of them presents all sorts of dirty challenges. PV modules are 90 percent glass, which cannot be recycled because of impurities. The PVs also contain toxic metals such as lead and cadmium as well as hazardous chemicals. Therefore, it is recommended they not be disposed of in conventional landfills. Disposing old solar panels is so expensive that some unscrupulous companies have resorted to selling the toxic junk to third-world countries that have less stringent environmental regulations.
Making the matter worse is the fact that solar companies are not required to post bonds on their projects so there is money set aside to clean up the mess if the company goes bankrupt, which many have. When they do go belly up, taxpayers have to pick up the tab. Oil and natural gas companies are required to post bonds. Why are solar companies given a free pass? Wind companies, too. With the taxpayer fueled growth of solar across the world, this already large problem is going to get much worse over the coming decades.
So the next time you hear news reporters or politicians parroting the virtues of “clean” solar energy you’ll think of the question that few people know they should be asking. If solar is so clean, why is it so dirty?
For the Clear Energy Alliance, I’m Mark Mathis. Power On!