The Los Angeles Times reports that we may be trading one evil for another with all of the potential waste generated from the life-cycle of a solar panel. While maybe not as harmful as mountaintop removal from coal or emissions emitted from the millions of cars on the road, the generation of electricity from solar does have its own dark side.Huge amounts of fossil fuels are used in the manufacture of the cells and, just like many other electronics, the waste metals not used in production also present their own disposal problems, mercury and chromium being two of the top problem-makers. We've also reported before that the installation of solar panels also includes toxic materials like the PVC and glues used in the conduit.
How Do We Know There is a Problem?
By looking at Asia, one of the leaders in solar applications, we see an area that is starting to have disposal problems from the use of all of the toxins during manufacture. In addition, the electronics industry generated 2.6 million tons of waste in 2005, most of which was ditched in landfills or incinerators, or shipped to developing nations for disposal. Meaning that either way it leached into groundwater, harmed the air or directly harmed people during the dismantling.