The dirt on solar panel recycling

According to Forbes, solar panel recycling is a dirty business. Given widespread solar installations around the world, experts predict in two to three decades there will be large scale waste and ecological damage when they’ve hit the used by date. To quote the article,

Were these statements made by the right-wing Heritage Foundation? Koch-funded global warming deniers? The editorial board of the Wall Street Journal?…None of the above. Rather, the quotes come from a senior Chinese solar official, a 40-year veteran of the U.S. solar industry, and research scientists with the German Stuttgart Institute for Photovoltaics.

“…The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in 2016 estimated there was about 250,000 metric tonnes of solar panel waste in the world at the end of that year. IRENA projected that this amount could reach 78 million metric tonnes by 2050…

…“We estimate there are 100,000 pounds of cadmium contained in the 1.8 million panels,” Sean Fogarty of the group told me. “Leaching from broken panels damaged during natural events — hail storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. — and at decommissioning is a big concern.”  

…Chinese and Japanese experts agree. “If a recycling plant carries out every step by the book,” a Chinese expert told The South China Morning Post, “their products can end up being more expensive than new raw materials.

There is an irony when fighting to save the planet. All we’re told is the positive side of renewables being good for the futures of our children and grandchildren. Just goes to show that these panels of virtue have side effects too. There is a sort of belief that solar panels and wind turbines have an infinite life when installed.

Governments are now thinking of pushing recycling costs back on the manufacturers. That would be a great idea. Drive up costs and send more businesses saddled with overproduction closer to bankruptcy.

Australia should go nuclear. If we want cheap, reliable, CO2-free electricity generation it is the only way to go. Yet our politicians fear treading on such ground.

If we go through history Chernobyl and Fukushima were ALL caused by human error. The systems functioned according to spec.

Solar and wind have proved epic failures, not in installation terms, but as reliable energy sources in operation. South Australia and Victoria are beta test cases of weakening the grid yet we wish to pursue a doubling down of this madness.

In Australia, the environment is ranked 4th in terms of election issues behind income growth/cost of living, affordable housing and power prices. At the 2016 election, the environment was ranked 9th. Do we read this as Aussies becoming decidedly more green in the last 3 years or is it they see all the environment policies being championed affecting issues 1-3? It would seem the latter is more plausible. Yet our politicians are reading it the wrong way. What a surprise!

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