Banner
    The Hazardous Waste Of Solar Panels
    By Hank Campbell | February 11th 2013 10:11 AM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0® and co-author of "Science Left Behind".

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone...

    View Hank's Profile
    There is a good reason I was not a fan of Energy Secretary Steven Chu's nationalistic claim that we are in a 'race' to beat China in creating cheap solar panels.  

    It wasn't that we can't win for economic reasons, like that workers in America don't want to do jobs that Chinese people are happy to do - we live in a culture where we think every janitor should get a $50 an hour benefit package and university students get sex change operations included in their health care plans, whose $50,000 costs are then paid for by federal student loans and federal taxpayer grants and, soon, federal health care underwriting. We aren't going to race to the bottom in wages and an iPad would cost $3,000 each if we built them in America, which is why Steve Jobs laughed at President Obama when the president asked how we might get some of that Apple manufacturing in America. There is no way America is competing with anyone but France in labor costs.

    No, my prime concern was that a lot of toxic environmental damage goes into building solar equipment (Science Left Behind, pp. 78-80) - the extraction of rare earth metals is damaging and the construction is all done using fossil fuels.  Obviously everything incurs environmental damage, if we add up all of the activist claims about environmental damage due to coffee, meat and whatever else, it far exceeds all of the actual environmental damage everywhere. The only thing environmentalists don't seem worried about are Prius batteries, and those they really should be scared about.

    But solar panels are more specific than made-up nonsense about how it takes a gallon of gas to make a pound of beef, the waste can be tracked easily. While poor people in California and all over America subsidize solar installations so that rich people in Malibu can feel good in their incredibly wasteful mansions - in the name of saving the environment - Associated Press findings show that 17 California solar panel companies dumped over 46,000,000 pounds of hazardous waste into landfills in the recent 5-year period. Great, but let's keep on protesting nuclear power, environmentalists.

    Like we do with China and iPhones, environmentally conscious people are okay rationalizing solar panels; as long as the slave labor and environmental pollution is somewhere else it is okay. So California ships off some of its hazardous waste to third world countries like Nevada, where much safer nuclear waste is a denial of science no-no.


    Credit and link: Associated Press

    Comments

    Hank, I thoroughly enjoyed your post on solar panels. I, before this post, was all for conserving and saving energy by the use of solar panels. But now, I am not sure that is even helping the environment when it is just causes other toxic materials to be dumped into the earth. I am not sure if I understood your statement correctly. Was the extreme amount of waste that was dumped in the United States due to solar panels or just any item? Either way, if solar companies are generating over 46 million pounds of waste within a few years, what is even the point of having solar panels to try to help the environment? I feel like it is a contradiction. Solar companies should save the waste from the panels and not pollute the earth, when they are the people trying to make it better. I love learning about things like this. You think it is helpful, but when you dig deep, it really isn't helping at all.

    Hank
    That's just solar panel waste.  Solar has a place in the future, to be sure, the Sun provided enough power to run Earth for a year in the time it took you to write your comment - but we are subsidizing inferior technology, solar panels have not made meaningful improvements since the 1950s, as part of a feel-good fallacy and  a war of energy companies that are successful.

    I think taxpayer money would be better spent on basic research to make good solar power rather than yet another kind of corporate welfare in the form of subsidies and mandates. Then we would really be getting somewhere in clean energy.
    Very good point. Prizes and rewards; incentives in general, have a great history of speeding up innovation.

    And yeah- It makes sense. I'm surprised at the numbers from california though- didn't think it'd be quite that high. 23 million tons....

    Hank, first, thank you for writing this blog about solar panels and their immediate waste. I think, as Americans, we are constantly looking for the one object that we can "save" the planet with and we grab at the first things we hear of before really researching any further. We have good intentions in that manner, this is just one example where those good intentions went bad. I had no idea whatsoever of the amount of waste product that comes from the production of these panels. To hear that California companies have dumped "46,000,000 pounds of hazardous waste" in just the last five years from the production of these panels just blows my mind. I have always thought of solar panels as a good fix and a good idea for clean energy and had no idea at what cost. I personally do not have the knowledge of how to fix such a problem, but it seems that if we could find a middle ground of clean production and clean energy source, that would be the best option for our environment. Although I can obviously see the true power of the sun simply by looking at the sky, it still amazes me that the sun, by use of solar panels, could give us enough power for as long as we needed, in just using the sun alone. We have the greatest source of energy right above our heads, yet 21st America can't seem to find a way to use it without destroying something else. I am a firm believer is using what you have at hand over something you must generate by man power, so power on to the scientists who are trying to find a way to have less waste in the production (or at least let's hope they are.)
    Thanks again for the blog. I love learning more about this type of information.