Mon Feb 11, 2013, 11:40 AM
phantom power (25,966 posts)
Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes
...the industry is creating millions of solar panels each year and, in the process, millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water. To dispose of the material, the 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 solar is cleaner than it is. After installing a solar panel, “it would take one to three months of generating electricity to pay off the energy invested in driving those hazardous waste emissions out of state,” said Dustin Mulvaney, a San Jose State University environmental studies professor who conducts carbon footprint analyses of solar, biofuel and natural gas production.
The waste from manufacturing has raised concerns within the industry, which fears that the problem, if left unchecked, could undermine solar’s green image at a time when companies are facing stiff competition from each other and from low-cost panel manufacturers from China and elsewhere. “We want to take the lessons learned from electronics and semiconductor industries (about pollution) and get ahead of some of these problems,” said John Smirnow, vice president for trade and competitiveness at the nearly 500-member Solar Energy Industries Association.
The increase in solar hazardous waste is directly related to the industry’s fast growth over the past five years – even with solar business moving to China rapidly, the U.S. was a net exporter of solar products by $2 billion in 2010, the last year of data available. The nation was even a net exporter to China.
New companies often send hazardous waste out of their plants because they have not yet invested in on-site treatment equipment, which allows them to recycle some waste. Nowhere is the waste issue more evident than in California, where landmark regulations approved in the 1970s require industrial plants like solar panel makers to report the amount of hazardous materials they produce, and where they send it. California leads the consumer solar market in the U.S. – which doubled overall both in 2010 and 2011.
The Associated Press compiled a list of 41 solar makers in the state, which included the top companies based on market data, and startups. In response to an AP records request, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control provided data that showed 17 of them reported waste, while the remaining did not. The same level of federal data does not exist. The state records show the 17 companies, which had 44 manufacturing facilities in California, produced 46.5 million pounds of sludge and contaminated water from 2007 through the first half of 2011. Roughly 97 percent of it was taken to hazardous waste facilities throughout the state, but more than 1.4 million pounds were transported to nine other states: Arkansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Nevada, Washington, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
4 replies, 848 views
Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes (Original post)
|phantom power||Feb 2013||OP|
Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #1)
Mon Feb 11, 2013, 12:59 PM
kristopher (29,485 posts)
2. The right is launching an all out assault on renewables
At all political levels and in the public media the right is waging a war against renewable energy. This is their last gasp as the price steadily declines to grid parity.
Tip of the hat to those "useful idiots" who are unwitting tools of that effort. (Not you AC)
Response to kristopher (Reply #2)
Thu Feb 14, 2013, 05:38 PM
AtheistCrusader (30,514 posts)
4. I used to be pretty pro nuke.
You helped me see the real risks. It's not even so much the consequences of the reactors failing due to human error/negligence, or natural catastrophe... There's the CO2 load on the front end building them, plus the fuel cycle is CO2 intensive... Gotta get that ore somewhere, and refine it.
The power density of the fuel is so incredibly tantalizing, and the smooth, cool, clean, clinical running reactor facilities are so beguiling... Idunno.
I don't support tearing them all down, by any means, not right away, but I oppose blindly extending their leases, and unless we can get Thorium to work, or a standing-wave reactor that consumes not only fuel, but stockpiles of former nuclear waste, then I can't see the purpose of putting half-assed new designs like the AP1000 online going forward. The AP1000 looks safer in a few dimensions, but overall, it suffers the same drawbacks as even the GE MKII's. The waste is just too much of a problem.
It's time to look elsewhere for power. Plenty of it, if we invest in capturing it.
Response to phantom power (Original post)
Mon Feb 11, 2013, 04:57 PM
drm604 (16,102 posts)
3. It's still better than fossil fuels.
After installing a solar panel, “it would take one to three months of generating electricity to pay off the energy invested in driving those hazardous waste emissions out of state,” said Dustin Mulvaney, a San Jose State University environmental studies professor who conducts carbon footprint analyses of solar, biofuel and natural gas production.
One to three months doesn't seem to me to be a show stopper, in fact it seems like a non-issue.
Once you've broken even on the carbon footprint that results from manufacturing, waste removal, etc., from there on you're ahead of the game. Those three months worth of carbon are nothing compared to continuing to burn carbon emitting fossil fuels.
Eventually, if we eliminate all non-renewable energy sources, then the waste will be transported using renewable energy.
This sounds like someone looking for anything they can find to bash solar. If this is the best they can come up with, they must not have much of an argument.