There is no emissions during use, and the noise and energy consumption of solar energy is a well-deserved clean energy, but its production process not only consumes a lot of energy, but also leaves toxic waste, which is harmful to workers and the environment. The latest survey shows that the recycling of solar cells is not smooth. This makes people wonder if solar energy is really harmless to the environment?
Not long ago, the San Francisco-based non-profit organization Silicon Valley Anti-Hazardous Materials Alliance (SVTC) released the “Solar Scorecard” – based on organizational surveys and company disclosures, the sustainability of 37 PV module manufacturers worldwide. And assessing the social responsibility of the score.
The assessment includes 12 indicators: manufacturer’s extended responsibility, product recycling and recycling, supply chain responsibility, chemical reduction use, corporate sustainability efforts and product life cycle analysis.
According to the official website of SVTC, in the end, China’s PV module manufacturers ranked first, with a high score of 92, becoming the most environmentally friendly solar company.
However, it should not be overlooked that the chemical emissions of the four companies exceeded the standard, and 13 companies recognized the emission of one or more pollutants from hazardous waste, heavy metals, air pollutants and ozone depletion.
In fact, the debate about whether solar energy is environmentally friendly has existed for a long time. Although the solar cell is indeed an environmentally friendly material, it does not emit, no noise, and is incapable during use, but its production process brings high pollution and high energy consumption. “The solar industry has many environmental issues similar to the microelectronics industry,” said Sheila&dot, executive director of SVTC. Davis said.
The most common material for solar panels is crystalline silicon, and the same ingredients are used in computers and cell phones. However, the method of purifying metal silicon into crystalline silicon produces high purity trichlorosilane which is a toxic, corrosive and explosive substance.
The most serious pollution is other products in the production process – silicon tetrachloride. This is a highly corrosive, difficult to preserve toxic liquid that does not degrade naturally. If dumped or buried, the water will be heavily polluted and the land will become barren land.
For every 1 kW of solar panels produced, 5800~6000 kWh is required, and auxiliary materials such as aluminum alloy, steel and cable are not considered. “Solar cells with silicon as the main raw material consume a lot of energy in the manufacturing process,” said Feng Yiyou, an associate professor of engineering at Northwestern University.
The survey has raised concerns about solar panel recycling.
Currently, there are two main problems with recycling solar panels:
First, there are not enough facilities to handle old panels.
Second, old panels can also generate profits.