Wednesday, September 02, 2020

solar panels to become "megatons of toxic trash"

Over at the blog Center of the American Experiment, there's a sobering article (seen via Instapundit) titled "Solar Panels Are Starting to Die. What Will We Do With The Megatons Of Toxic Trash?" While I'm a huge skeptic when it comes to the current state of alternative, renewable, sustainable, green energy, I remain hopeful that, as efforts continue, the state of that market will improve, and we'll eventually be able to move over to energy sources that don't pollute the environment. Like any sane individual, I'm certainly not for the continued pollution of the environment; my beef is mainly with moony, Gaia-worshiping environmentalists who overly romanticize and poeticize the situation instead of viewing nature as it really is.

Meanwhile, though, the "green" technology we have now is producing unwanted and unanticipated negative effects. The above-linked article focuses on solar panels, the first wave of which are now old enough to start breaking down. Recycling parts of these broken-down units is expensive, and as the article states, green energy isn't at a point where it's cost-effective. What's more, the article makes the uncomfortable point that the solar-panel industry takes advantage of the resources and needs of poorer countries by harvesting manufacturing materials from those countries, making solar panels for first-world clients, then selling the old, broken-down panels to those same third-world countries, all the while knowing the technology has become defective. The whole process feels a lot like wallet-rape on a country-wide scale, and we first-worlders are all party to it in our mad rush to "go green." Meanwhile, as the solar panels break down, they have the potential to allow toxic substances to leach into the soil. The whole thing is a sham and a fiasco, and we're past the point where something needs to be done about it. Until we can make green energy into something better than a "Monkey's Paw" solution to our energy needs, everyone from the first world to the third world will suffer a host of nasty consequences.

Most people seem to believe that wind and solar panels produce no waste and have no negative environmental impacts. Unfortunately, these people are wrong.

In reality, everything that humans do has an environmental impact, whether it be mining, using a coal-fired power plant, or even tourism. When it comes to energy and environmental policy, the real question to ask is not “will there be an impact?” but rather, “can the impacts be minimized?” and “do the benefits outweigh the costs?”

Because everything has an effect on the environment, it is important that everyone understands the impacts of all energy sources so we can make the best possible energy decisions. We are constantly making trade-offs in our lives whether we recognize it or not.


Unlike other forms of electricity generation, like nuclear plants or coal plants, there doesn’t seem to be any foresight on how to deal with the waste that will be generated when solar panels and wind turbines reach the end of their short lifetimes. Remember, nuclear plants can run for 80 years, as can coal plants with proper maintenance and upkeep, but even the best wind turbines and solar panels will last for just 25 years, creating staggering amounts of waste products.


For context, the amount of nuclear waste created from generating electricity in the United States for the last five decades is about 90,000 metric tons. During this time, nuclear power has provided nearly 20 percent of the nation’s electricity.

This means that solar panels are expected to generate 866 times more waste in the next 30 years than nuclear power has generated in the last 50. And unlike nuclear waste, which is safely stored on site, nobody knows what will happen to these solar panels at the end of their useful lifetime because solar panels are not easily recycled.


Solar panels are required to be recycled in the European Union, but with the exception of Washington state, the U.S. has no solar recycling mandates whatsoever. Most of the time, solar panels go to landfills or are exported overseas for reuse in developing countries with weak environmental protections...


There’s nothing wrong with putting solar panels in a properly designed landfill facility. Landfills are equipped with modern technology to protect groundwater and the environment, and putting the solar panels in one of these designated waste facilities is a much better alternative to them sitting abandoned in farm fields after they have reached the end of their useful lifetimes. However, it is important to remind those who think solar is clean and green that solar panels also have environmental downsides.

Unfortunately, most people still don’t understand that wind and solar require enormous amounts of metal, and that much of this metal is mined in Third-World countries that have few protections for workers or the environment. Then, after the solar panel is no longer useful to Americans, they are shipped to developing countries for reuse or disposal. The potential contamination then becomes their problem, not ours.

This makes for bleak reading, but it's a good heads-up, and something has to be done.


Drago said...

No no no no, the megatons of trash produced will be blamed on Capitalism and not to the green energy experiments.

I did my own study and unfortunately Oil is still the cheapest form or energy for $ per watt. But Nuclear GEN 4 is far superior if people actually want to produce clean cheap energy while we find the green unicorn which might take a little while longer.

Name every mistake and disaster and then do some research; even a little.

Kevin Kim said...

Not sure why you're saying "No, no, no, no." Can't you see that we largely agree? In my post, I made it clear I'm not a "greenie." And if you've read enough of my blog, you know I'm very pro-capitalist and have no problem with nuclear energy. (I'm also pro-fracking.) Where, then, do we disagree? What specific claim did I make that provoked your "No, no, no, no"?

By the way, please link me to your study. I'd like to read it for myself. If your extensive research is not currently online, please upload it and send me the link. As you say: I should do some research. I might as well start my research with your data, which I need to see so I can verify your claims about the relative cheapness of oil.

As for your claim that "the megatons of trash produced will be blamed on [c]apitalism and not [on] the [green-energy] experiments," well, yes, I agree: but only the American left will be stupid enough to do that because the American left blames everything on capitalism, racism, etc.