The Left has long touted solar panels as a more environmentally friendly source of energy, but a new study suggests that discarded solar panels actually pose a serious risk to the environment.
The study, conducted by Environmental Progress, concluded that discarded solar panels release more toxic chemicals per unit of energy than nuclear power plants:
- Solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than do nuclear power plants.
- If solar and nuclear produce the same amount of electricity over the next 25 years that nuclear produced in 2016, and the wastes are stacked on football fields, the nuclear waste would reach the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa (52 meters), while the solar waste would reach the height of two Mt. Everests (16 km).
- In countries like China, India, and Ghana, communities living near e-waste dumps often burn the waste in order to salvage the valuable copper wires for resale. Since this process requires burning off the plastic, the resulting smoke contains toxic fumes that are carcinogenic and teratogenic (birth defect-causing) when inhaled.
The reason for this high waste is that solar panels contain lead, cadmium and chromium; the latter two are carcinogens. Cadmium, which is present in cigarette smoke, can also result in kidney problems.
This is a problem for countries like Japan, which expects to see its solar panel waste increase by 10,000 to 800,000 tons a year in a span of over 20 years; it would take 19 years for Japan to recycle all the waste generated by 2020 alone.
According to National Review, the United States will soon have to deal with the problem of discarded solar panel waste given that there are over "1.4 million solar-energy installations now in use, including many already near the end of their 25-year lifespan" and "that Americans with solar roofs produce 30 to 60 percent more electronic waste than non-solar households."
The creation of solar panels also happens to generate toxic waste, as creating solar panels spewed "46.5 million pounds of sludge and contaminated water" in California alone from 2007 to 2011, per the Associated Press.
When combining the environmental effects of manufacturing and discarding solar panels with the fact that they're still more expensive than typical sources of energy like "coal, natural gas, or nuclear," it's hard to see how it's economical or environmentally wise for the government to subsidize solar energy.