A new white paper addresses the use of toxic materials in solar photovoltaic manufacturing and products and other environmental, health, and safety issues facing the sector, and provides recommendations for creating a “greener” overall industry.
“Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Industry,” published by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, provides an overview of the hazardous materials used in solar cell and module production, potential end-of-life hazards for PV products, the regulatory framework for solar products, and a list of six key recommendations for what it calls “a clean and just solar industry.”
The 45-page report also includes appendices of chemicals associated with PV manufacturing and their disposal as well as a brief description of various solar production processes, such as crystalline silicon and thin films.
The SVTC report’s sustainability and safety recommendations include:
- Reduce and eventually eliminate the use of toxic materials and develop environmentally sustainable practices.
- Ensure that solar PV manufacturers are responsible for the lifecycle impacts of their products through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
- Ensure proper testing of new and emerging materials and processes based on a precautionary approach.
- Expand recycling technology and design products for easy recycling.
- Promote high-quality “green jobs” that protect worker health and safety and provide a living wage throughout the global PV industry, including supply chains and end-of-life recycling.
- Protect community health and safety throughout the global PV industry, including supply chains and recycling.
Monique Hanis, spokeswoman for the Solar Energy Industries Assn. (SEIA), told the San Jose Mercury News that the trade organization sees the report’s findings as favorable.
“We agree with everything that they’re proposing,” she said. “The solar energy industry is part of the solution. We see ourselves as particularly not wanting to add to environmental problems.”
In the Los Angeles Times‘ coverage of the white paper, First Solar’s Lisa Krueger noted how the thin-film PV leader
“…guarantees that it will take back all its solar panels from commercial customers at the end of the product’s life…. To back up its promise to customers, the company has funded an independent trust to handle the cost of the collection effort, ensuring that the panels would get recycled even if the company folds,” she said.
“We are in business to create environmental solutions,” Krueger told the Times. “What good does it do if we create waste problems” in the process?
(To read the white paper or download a copy, click here.)