How surprised would you be if you were told that solar energy is not a safe method of producing electricity? After all, it’s constantly being presented as the safe and reasonable alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear power. This may not be an accurate picture.
In November of 2016 Japan’s Environment Ministry predicted that the amount of waste produced by Japan’s solar panels will rise from 10,000 tons to 800,000 tons per year. They have no way of disposing of this waste.In the USA California leads the country in solar power yet they also have no way of safely disposing of the waste generated.
Europe does require companies who make solar panels to collect them when their usefulness is past and dispose of them. (Solar panels have a lifetime of approximately 25 years.)So how bad is the problem? Very:
- The production of solar panels requires the use of sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid, both caustic chemicals. In addition, the process produces greenhouse gases.
- Solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste than nuclear power plants per unit of energy generated. Let’s assume that, for the next 25 years, we generate the same amount of energy by nuclear power as was generated worldwide in 2016. The amount of waste generated would cover a football field to the height of 52 meters, about the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. To generate the same amount of electricity using solar panels would create a pile of toxic wast 16 kilometers tall, twice the height of Mount Everest.
- Countries in which solar panel waste is dumped – China, India and Ghana – burn the waste in order to retrieve the valuable copper. As the plastic in them burns, it gives off toxic fumes that are not only carcinogenic but also produce birth defects if inhaled. Waste from solar panels includes heavy metals such as lead, chromium and cadmium, all very dangerous to humans especially if it leaches into the groundwater.
- Unlike nuclear waste which is monitored, solar panel waste tends to end up with old computers and other electronic waste, There are no controls governing its treatment.
Before we decide to “go solar,” we need to look at the facts and see if this is in our best interests. Will solar make things better for us or cause even worse problems.