Chemicals & Toxins in Solar Panels
 
Today’s dominant thin-film technologies are cadmium telluride and a more recent competitor, copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS). In the former, one semiconductor layer is made of cadmium telluride; the second is cadmium sulfide. In the latter, the primary semiconductor material is CIGS, but the second layer is typically cadmium sulfide. So each of these technologies uses compounds containing the heavy metal cadmium, which is both a carcinogen and a genotoxin, meaning that it can cause inheritable mutations.
 
Check out some of the most common chemicals used for solar power and how each plays a role.
  • Hydrochloric acid, copper, trichlorosilane gas and silicon waste. ...
  • Cadmium. ...
  • Nitrogen trifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride. ...
  • Copper indium selenide and copper indium gallium (di)selenide. ...
  • The importance of chemicals.
 
During manufacture and after the disposal of solar panels, they release hazardous chemicals including cadmium compounds, silicon tetrachloride, hexafluoroethane and lead.
  • Cadmium Telluride. ...
  • Copper Indium Selenide. ...
  • Cadmium Indium Gallium (Di)selenide. ...
  • Silicon Tetrachloride.
 

Chemical Makeup of Solar Panels
Solar Panels Toxic Waste
Disposal of Solar Panels

 

Solar Panel Waste: Solar Energy Not So Green After All

 

Discarded solar panels are ending up in landfills, instead of being recycled, where toxic solar panel waste is leaking into the ground and water.

Solar photovoltaic panels, whose operating life is 20 to 30 years, lose productivity over time. The International Renewable Energy Agency estimated that there were about 250,000 metric tons of solar panel waste in the world at the end of 2016 and that the figure could reach 78 million metric tons by 2050. Solar panels contain lead, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals that cannot be removed without breaking apart the entire panel.

 

While disposal of solar panels has taken place in regular landfills, it is not recommended because the modules can break and toxic materials can leach into the soil, causing problems with drinking water. Solar panels can be recycled but the cost of recycling is generally more than the economic value of the material recovered. Used panels are also sold to developing world countries that want to purchase them inexpensively despite their reduced ability to produce energy. Regardless, solar panel waste disposal is a problem that needs to be addressed.

Washington State is the only U.S. state that requires the manufacturer to develop a recycle plan, but the state requirement does not address the cost of recycling. Adding a fee to the cost of solar panels would help ensure that the disposal issue is addressed in the event that the manufacturer goes bankrupt. Since 2016, at least seven solar panel manufacturers (Sungevity, Beamreach, Verengo Solar, SunEdison, Yingli Green Energy, Solar World, and Suniva) have gone bankrupt.

California’s Approach

Because California’s solar panels end up in landfills at the end of their useful life, the state is in the process of implementing regulations to change that. California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) held a meeting with solar and waste industry representatives to discuss the disposal issue. The representatives and DTSC acknowledged that it would be difficult to determine whether a used solar panel should be classified as hazardous waste. The DTSC suggested building a database where solar panels and their toxicity could be tracked by their model numbers, but it is not clear whether DTSC will implement such a data base.

Natural events such as hail storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. can cause damage to the panels.  For example, in 2015, a tornado broke 200,000 solar modules at southern California’s solar farm Desert Sunlight. More recently, the second largest solar farm in Puerto Rico, generating 40 percent of the island’s electricity, was severely damaged during Hurricane Maria. With 100,000 pounds of cadmium contained in 1.8 million solar panels calculated for a proposed 6,350 acre proposed solar farm in Virginia, any breakage is a cause for concern. Further, even rainwater has been found to flush out cadmium within an intact solar panel.

Course of Action

The biggest problem with solar panel waste may be its large quantity. Because sunlight is dilute and diffuse, large collectors are required to capture and convert the sun’s rays into electricity. Those large surface areas require an order of magnitude more materials (glass, heavy metals, and rare earth elements) than other energy sources. Approximately 90 percent of most PV modules are made up of glass. However, this glass often cannot be recycled due to impurities such as plastics, lead, cadmium and antimony in the glass.

 
Manufacturers are lowering the cost of manufacturing solar panels by reducing the silver content in their modules. Although silver makes up a very small fraction of the mass of a solar panel, it makes up about 47 percent of its value, which lowers the incentive for a recycler to recycle a panel. Silver is worth significantly more than other recoverable components such as aluminum, copper, silicon and glass. Manufacturers are able to reduce the silver content by using inkjet and screen printing technologies to replace it with a combination of copper, nickel and aluminum and by smarter manufacturing techniques that are more precise about the minimum amount of silver that is required. The decrease in silver makes recycling a larger challenge from a value perspective since there is less silver to recover from the modules.
 
 

 
 
SO MANY REASONS WHY SOLAR FARMS DO NOT BELONG ON LONG ISLAND ESPECIALLY THE EAST END!
 
 

STOP THE SOLAR FARMS NOW!

VOTE ALL THOSE POLITICIANS
THAT ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN OUT!

SAVE OUR GREEN SPACES!

FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL TO SEE WHICH POLITICIANS AND LAWYERS ARE BENEFITTING THE MOST

SAVE OUR WILDLIFE AND WATER BASIN!

THESE PEOPLE SHOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THIS LAND GRAB