Solar panels generate mountains of waste

Solar panels generate mountains of waste

They also heat the planet, blanket wildlife habitats and cause other ecological damage

Duggan Flanakin

The problem of solar panel waste is now becoming evident. As environmental journalist Emily Folk admits in Renewable Energy Magazine, “when talking about renewable energy, the topic of waste does not often appear.” She attributes this to the supposed “pressures of climate change” and alleged “urgency to find alternative energy sources,” saying people may thus be hesitant to discuss “possible negative impacts of renewable energy.”

Ms. Folk admits that sustainability requires proper e-waste management. Yet she laments, “Solar presents a particular problem. There is growing evidence that broken panels release toxic pollutants … [and] increasing concern regarding what happens with these materials when they are no longer viable, especially since they are difficult to recycle.”

This is the likely reason that (except in Washington state), there are no U.S. mandates for solar recycling. A recent article in Grist reports that most used solar panels are shipped to developing countries that have little electricity and weak environmental protections, to be reused or landfilled.

The near-total absence of end-of-life procedures for solar panels is likely a byproduct of the belief (and repeated, unsupported assertion) that renewable energy is “clean” and “green.” Indeed, Mississippi Sierra Club state director Louie Miller recently claimed that unlike fossil fuels and nuclear energy, “Sunshine is a free fuel.” Well, sunshine is certainly free and clean. However, there is a monumental caveat.

Harnessing sunshine (and wind) to serve humanity is not free – or clean, green, renewable or sustainable.

The 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act mandates that new surface coal mines include plans and set aside funds for full reclamationof mine properties. The law also sets standards for restoring abandoned mine lands. There is nothing akin to this for solar facilities and wastes.

Similarly, the 1980 Superfund law (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act) created a tax and trust fund to pay for preventing and fixing actual or threatened releases of hazardous substancesthat could endanger public health or the environment. Again, still nothing for solar.

The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act prioritizes deep geologic repositories for safe storage and/or disposal of radioactive waste. Unfortunately, 25 years after being designated as the disposal site, Nevada’s Yucca Mountain has never opened, because of conflicts among politicians, locals, anti-nuclear activists, government officials and the nuclear industry. The U.S. still stores its nuclear waste at 75 scattered sites, including some near New York City, New Orleans and Chicago. For solar no steps have been taken.

While coal, nuclear, and petrochemical companies must come up with detailed, costly plans for dealing with real or potential negative consequences of their operations, solar (and wind) companies have been rewarded with massive subsidies and absolutely no disposal standards or requirements.

No government grants require that solar companies set aside money to dispose of, store or recycle wastes generated during manufacturing or after massive solar “farms” have ceased functioning and been torn down. Solar (and wind) customers are likewise not charged for waste cleanup, disposal, or reuse and recycling. This and the massive subsidies distort and hide the true costs of solar power.

But reality is starting to catch up. Disposal (or recycling) costs will have to be paid, ultimately by consumers. The more solar panels we have (likely billions within a few years), the higher those costs will be. Consumers in states like California that have committed to heavy reliance on solar (and wind) energy (and already have the nation’s highest energy bills) will have to pay even more.

California is also facing a secondary problem from the proliferation of subsidized industrial solar installations. A 2015 study by Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution for Science found that nearly a third of the state’s solar development is occurring on former cropland, where many farmers are shifting from growing crops to using their land to generate electricity – rather than letting it become wildlife habitat. As Big Solar also moves into natural areas, California is losing even more habitat and scenic land, while the integrity of state and national parks suffers from the nearby glare of countless solar panels and towering transmission lines to distant cities. 

The Stanford study highlights another problem: localized higher temperatures. It found it will take an area the size of South Carolina filled with solar arrays to meet California’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. [It would take at least eight South Carolinas if the California mandate were extended nationwide.]

Other research has found that these large-scale solar power plants raise local temperatures, creating a significant solar heat island effect. Temperatures around one solar power plant were 5.4o-7.2 °F (3o-4°C) warmer than nearby wildlands. Imagine such manmade “global warming” across 20 million acres (South Carolina) or 160 million acres (Texas), to meet California or U.S. greenhouse gas reduction goals!

Australia is already coping with this unwelcome reality. Not until 2018 did Aussie environment ministers mandate fast-track development of new product stewardship schemes for photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, like those television and computer manufacturers and retailers have had to comply with since 2011.

Total Environment Centre director Jeff Angel admitted that setting standards for life-of-product management for solar panels was “long overdue,” and that the 30-year delay in imposing standards revealed a “fundamental weakness” in Australia’s waste policies. He further noted that while solar panels contain hazardous substances, Aussies are “sending hundreds of thousands of e-waste items to landfills” and creating significant pollution problems. And Australia has less than a tenth of the U.S. population!

Since 2002, the European Union’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive has required that original producers of e-wastes guarantee and pay for taking back and recycling their wastes, so that end-user consumers aren’t surprised by additional disposal costs. 

However, PV solar panel waste was not included in this mandate until July 2012 – and “some uncertainty remains” about the cutoff date for such wastes, because the directive has yet to be implemented in national laws. Producer financing of PV waste treatment thus cannot be applied to older solar panels. So who will pay? And how much?

Ms. Folk and others look to waste-to-energy plants, and indeed the EU does send much of its solar panel waste to incinerators – which many environmentalists oppose. Landfilling is not a viable option in the U.S., because toxins could leach out. Unscrupulous companies ship solar panel waste to developing nations, but that is a stopgap solution that is environmentally irresponsible.

Tao Meng, lead author of a new study, says “the big blind spot in the U.S. for recycling is that the cost far exceeds the revenue” – by nearly 10-to-1, especially when including transportation costs. Chemicals must be used to remove silver and lead from silicon modules before they can be safely placed in landfills, Meng notes.

The problem of solar panel waste will continue to grow as more panels reach their end of life. Four years ago the International Renewable Energy Agency estimated there were already about 250,000 metric tons of solar panel waste worldwide – and that total will explode to 78 million metric tons by 2050!

So when you read that solar energy is already cheaper than natural gas, don’t be fooled. They are omitting the pollution and disposal costs, as well as habitat losses, solar heat islands, and the need for backup power generation or batteries – to lowball the true costs of intermittent, season, latitude and weather-dependent solar. We need some honest math now, before it’s too late to turn back.

Duggan Flanakin is director of policy research for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org)

87 thoughts on “Solar panels generate mountains of waste

  1. The Green Blight. The Green Glut. Laundered, renewable greenbacks. Sociopolitical myths are a first-order forcing of catastrophic anthropogenic divergent development.

  2. “Temperatures around one solar power plant were 5.4o-7.2 °F (3o-4°C) warmer than nearby wildlands. Imagine such manmade “global warming” across 20 million acres (South Carolina) or 160 million acres (Texas), to meet California or U.S. greenhouse gas reduction goals!”

    How about we just imagine what we already have…..

    The cities, millions of miles of asphalt and concrete, heaters in the winter, AC in the summer, cars and trucks….all the things that generate heat

    I’m sure if someone could figure all that out….they would be shocked the temperature is not a lot higher than it is

    • UHI is probably where a lot of the measured additional heat is coming from, especially from all the thermometers that are located close by to such. As WUWT has demonstrated over the years. Even though they say it is adjusted out, I just don’t think so, since I recall as a teenager 50 years ago, my Dad always ranting at the TV weather forecaster that the downtown temperature wasn’t anywhere near the same as out at the airport which was out of town. Or the farm. But human populated areas are a smallish fraction of the land surface on the planet, with oceans, lakes, Antartica and Greenland covering about 80+% of the planets surface where there are no people. UHI and land use change probably have a bigger change to temps than CO2, but that is just IMHO. Which is why I think CO2 is a red herring and reducing atmospheric CO2 will not have any major effect on changing the climate. CO2 is a new metaphor for real pollution, which was what we were all worried about in the 1960’s. Let’s clean up real pollution around the world.

      • Let’s clean up real pollution around the world.

        that’s the whole problem. The CO2 obsession has totally derailed any real environment action on anything which matters. The whole movement has been highjacked and no longer has anything to do with protecting the environment. It’s lies all the way down.

      • Adjusting temperatures only covers up a problem. Other than improperly located thermometers, UHI is real, and does represent heat being added to the atmosphere. It should be included in the temperature profile.

        Adjusting is a perfect excuse for warmists to modify temps to help their claims about CO2. Adjustments also allow CO2 adherents to ignore the issue of UHI artificially raising temps.

        • NO, UHI is not “adding” heat to the atmosphere in any way…..it is only getting warmer readings in local areas that have been developed and slow heat loss creating to impression of more warming……NO insulator anywhere “adds” heat to any system, insulators only slow the movement of heat or the energy that causes heat, they do NOT and CANT “add heat” to anything…..it amazes me that people with so called education cant grasp this simple science FACT.

          • Umm, what??? The source of urban heat is chiefly the heat waste-byproducts of the energy consumed in metropolitan areas. ACHV systems, transportation, lighting, essentially anything that we create that consumes energy is by nature exothermic. The population, itself, is a mass of heat radiators. Human activity adds heat to the local environment, but is negligible beyond the locality.

            Insulation is not a factor. The I in UHI is Index – Urban Heat Index.

          • tell me how warm that pasta gets from a lid on the pot and NO HEAT from the burner it is sitting upon?????? and for the other fella claiming the UHI is human generated heat, NO it is heat from the SUN that warms the now concrete areas that used to be grasses and trees…..far too many dont grasp how much energy the SUN sends the earth, and how little impact we have in comparison to the sun……why doesnt everybody just set a small fire in their yard to avoid snow in the winter?????? why dont all humans just take a leak on forest fires and put them out?????

          • It is change in albedo that we are making, (and thermal mass heat retention for UHI) that generates and keeps more of the heat local, which is what we measure with thermometers if in the same neck of the woods. It doesn’t add up to a lot on a global scale, which really isn’t the point. It’s that it is actually warmer where people live that feel a warmer local temp, so then they assume it is global warming. So the illusion that this heating must be global is the mistake, as the tiny amount of thermal heat change doesn’t make the global atmosphere that much warmer…it all radiates out to space soon enough anyway. It is that the thermometers register this UHI heating locally, and then gets extrapolated to the entire globe by unscrupulous scientists who then claim that CO2 done it all. Therein be the fraud. Pay a small tax, and we will fix the global temps and the climate by extension. Preposterous.

          • First, Bill, it is the Urban Heat Island Index that is calculated. Secondly, the main causes are changes in the land surface by urban development along with waste heat generated by energy use. So get off your high horse.

            But your rant was about insulators. Just exactly what insulators do you hold responsible for urban heat?

      • I do a small cycle ride to get a baguette and other bits of groceries most mornings. We live in a small hamlet of five houses. The local shop is in a village of about a thousand people. This time of year I get to the village at or just after sunrise. We’ve had a warm autumn with no wind most mornings. It is noticeable that there’s a step change in temperature as I enter the village. It goes from fields to streets in about 50 metres, I don’t have a thermometer but it must be a couple of degrees Celsius some mornings.

        • Our dog park is a study in “all temperature is local:” Grassy areas are cooler than graveled/concrete areas and breezes from the large soccer fields to the south are cooler than those from the middle school to the west. UHI affects local temperatures and is reflected in local thermometers.

    • Some of that warming is no doubt from the dark solar panels heating up in the sun. But much of it is no doubt from cutting down trees and brush.

      • There is no doubt that changing the albedo of the surface by the placement of these giant solar farms is additive to the heat flux. Both passively from thermal heating of the darker solar panel, and the photons that are converted to useful energy that create work/heat somewhere else. So it is additive over and above than if the land had just been left natural grass or forest. The good news, is they do nothing for half the time at night, neither produce any electricity or gather moonbeam heating. So it is only half as bad as we thought.

  3. ““possible negative impacts of renewable energy.””

    Basically EVERYTHING to do with so-called “renewable” energy is a NEGATIVE impact.

    … from the mining of toxic materials through child-labor and other environment destroying processes,

    … to the processing and manufacture from those minded products, invariably with highly toxic waste products.

    …to the massive environmental damage done during installation

    .. to the disruption of stability of grids

    .. to the destruction of higher order avian birdlife

    .. to the detrimental increase of electricity prices affecting the poorest people.

    .. to the outflux of industries and manufacturing due to irregularity and instability of electricity supply

    .. to the massive toxic mess created by their disposal.

    In REALITY, one would be hard pressed to find a SINGLE positive coming out of this idiotic attempt at implementing UNRELIABLE electricity supply to solve a total NON-PROBLEM.

      • Yep, somehow poor people always vote for those that want to keep them poor out of necessity of not losing their voters base. Anti-capitalism is misery forever.

  4. “Other research has found that these large-scale solar power plants raise local temperatures, creating a significant solar heat island effect. Temperatures around one solar power plant were 5.4o-7.2 °F (3o-4°C) warmer than nearby wildlands. Imagine such manmade “global warming” across 20 million acres (South Carolina) or 160 million acres (Texas), to meet California or U.S. greenhouse gas reduction goals!”

    Not to give anyone any extra ideas, but appears there would be some efficiencies to be gained by adding some TEG’s (Thermal Electric Generators) to make them even more efficient, maybe adding a few points. My solar panels (off grid) get real hot on a summer day, especially while producing max output, so the local albedo of the surface area they cover are very high which is adding additional thermal heat to the atmosphere. Multiply that by several billions, and you have a lot of extra heating that the planet gets. So much for the solving global warming idea.

    Some other research I saw was utilizing the extra waste heat to either heat domestic water or distill water through inexpensive evaporative/condensing units on the back of a solar panel that provided a few gallons of purified water per day from brackish waste water per panel. Plus, if the next generation of solar panel had its own internal inexpensive battery that made its daily energy accessible 24/7, lasted 40 years minimum with minimal degradation, was 33% more efficient overall (with all these additions) and cost half as much including being able to be completely and efficiently recycled at end of life, then they would be ideal for off grid substitution for diesel supplied communities or for remote off grid and 3rd world applications where an electricity grid will never get built. Just plug and play. Sort of like going straight to cell phones instead of building a a copper/fibre physical land line. But probably still expensive electricity. Might be more palatable if it was more efficient and less costly.

    I don’t think any grid scale solar in a first world country is a substitute long term for what must be developed sooner or later which is advanced 4th-5th generation nuclear which is the only alternative available right now if they really wanted to reduce fossil fuels for electricity generation. That is the only thing that can power an industrial economy long term without destroying the environment for all these raw materials that will be required from the good Earth. But I wouldn’t be opposed to making solar panels more efficient, cheaper, longer lasting and recyclable. They have their place, just not as a substitute for a massive grid scale energy generator.

    • Earthling2 said:
      “My solar panels (off grid) get real hot on a summer day, especially while producing max output, so the local albedo of the surface area they cover are very high which is adding additional thermal heat to the atmosphere.”

      You have made several posts to the same effect concerning ‘albedo’ which makes me wonder…I don’t think you know what albedo is – “the proportion of the incident light or radiation that is reflected by a surface”. So, IOW, snow has high albedo (because it is white) and does not heat up, solar panels have low albedo (they are dark) and they *do* heat up. NOTICE – I’m not addressing any incident reflectivity due to the glass surface, only the panel itself.

  5. Past their efficiency date solar panels should be horizontally lapped to make side walls or shingle slabbed for roofing of homeless encampment shelters.

  6. “The Stanford study highlights another problem: localized higher temperatures. It found it will take an area the size of South Carolina filled with solar arrays to meet California’s goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. [It would take at least eight South Carolinas if the California mandate were extended nationwide.]”

    That study published a rather notable, and rarely mentioned, correction:

    “The authors note that on page 13579, right column, first full paragraph, lines 12–16, the following statement published incorrectly: “If up to 500 GW of USSE may be required to meet United States-wide reduction of 80% of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 71,428 km2 of land may be required (roughly the land area of the state of South Carolina) assuming a capacity factor of 0.20 (an average capacity factor for PV; Table S1).” The statement should instead appear as: “For example, up to 500 GW of USSE may be required to meet United States-wide reduction of 80% of 1990 greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (33). This requires about 14,285 km2 of land [roughly the area of the state of Connecticut, (9)], underscoring the possible vast area requirements for energy needs in the United States.””

  7. California’s *FIRST* problem is that they’re still using highly flammable roofing material and roofing/roof designs that are incredibly energy inefficient. A steel roof backed by an impenetrable sheet over two layers of 6″ foam sheet on top of a slatted open rafter truss to enclose the HVAC systems as part of the house environment is more than twice as efficient as the roof/attic combination that is currently being installed in houses both in California and Texas and more than 50% more efficient than the legally required structures in Florida. When a contractor skimps on the insulation or wood thickness in the older roof systems the efficiency is much worse.

    The first step to renewables is reducing power use by constructing replacement and new homes with systems that are far more efficient.

    • Prjindigo – – – “The first step . . .”
      New housing and roof replacement of existing housing is a slow way of solving an existential crisis. Not that I think there is one.

      I can attest that for the individual home owner installing more efficient systems is a great idea.

  8. Solar panel recycling in Washington States is slated to launch on January 1, 2021. The public is to be provided with a convenient and environmentally sound way to recycle solar panels sold after July 1, 2017.
    Check back.

    I wonder who is responsible for removing and carting the panels from your roof.
    Will the roof be clean — free of rails and so on, and sound?
    What if the business that installed them is gone?
    I have no intention of finding out.

  9. Sunshine and wind energy as a potential source of electric power to serve humanity only remains free when it is left untapped to periodically circulate round about us. When all is taken fully into account — from mining the materials to construction of the means to transporting the harnessing product to the production site to transmitting the electricity to points of usage to periodically rebuilding worn out apparatus to disposing of the resulting waste — harnessing that ambient energy is neither cheap socioeconomically or ecologically, free of side-stream toxic outflows (including plenty of CO2 by the way if that’s your driving concern), nor is it self-renewable or thus even sustainable (without supporting outside fossil fuel energy production sources). It’s just all so much more complicated an endeavor than all the fake news leads simple minds to believe about it.

  10. Can anyone name any manufacturing process, or any process at all, or product that does not produce waste? I cannot think of one.

    • PMJD, I hear you, and, in sentiment, I agree with your question, as I have asked it many times — we all know the answer — but the question that I use is a bit different:

      Are there any significant human activities, processes, productions or etc that do not, in any meaningful way, negatively impact the environment … that is, effect the atmosphere, landscape, biota or etc?

      Zorzin, in my view, is correct; that is, if the forests and other such similar situations are restored [properly] for the very long term; however, whenever such resources are harvested, the general result is a tremendous negative environmental impact; not that, over time, it can not be somewhat restored.

      But, as mentioned above, we all know the answer: nothing — nothing — which humans do, to any significant scale, does not negatively impact the environment; where, in light of this truth, the question comes down to, in the comprehensive larger picture, how do we perform as good stewards of our living spaces?

      • “Zorzin, in my view, is correct; that is, if the forests and other such similar situations are restored [properly] for the very long term; however, whenever such resources are harvested, the general result is a tremendous negative environmental impact; not that, over time, it can not be somewhat restored.” Sorry wrong, logging look like a mess, yet it has impacts, most of them are positive, for the animals that live in forest. It open up a space that almost immediately becomes ecologically diverse. Grass and bushes grow, birds and animals have more food and the forest retake the space, the ecology changes after a time it will return to and old forest mostly devoid of diverse plant and animal alike. The forest floor will be open since sunlight cannot penetrate the canopy. A mature pine forest does not have much to offer, most animal that live in the wild. It is the edges that are the zones with most wildlife and diversity.

      • Some here protest too much about the toxic components of solar panels. Other the the Solyndra debacle that used Cadmium Telluride thin film cells, most solar cells are more than 99% silicon and aluminum. The rest is also non-toxic or so firmly combined with the silicon so as to stay there for thousands of years. The panels add some copper wiring, glass, and steel structure.
        So nothing that should not go into a landfill.

  11. ‘They also heat the planet, blanket wildlife habitats and cause other ecological damage’

    They absolutely do not! I don’t see any evidence presented for this utterly ridiculous assertion?

    (and in the UK mine operators ditching their legal clean up responsibilities has been a frequent event… just ‘cos there’s a law…)

    • “They absolutely do not!”
      Of course they do! If you convert a forest to a solar “farm”- you see no wildlife/ecological damage? You are very deluded.

    • Griff,
      Compare: a square metre of farmland, grass etc, damp, sunshine landing on it, it will warm slightly.

      With: a square metre of PV panel, mounted one metre above the same square metre of grassland. When the same sun lands the same sunshine on the PV panel, it will physically get warm, just like a tarmac road, or a concrete runway.

      If current flows through the panel, it will produce a small amount of additional heat.

      You can not escape physics.

      This type of comparison is easy for even you to understand and not seek comfort from ‘scientific’ papers to support your argument that concrete remains the same temperature as grass.

      • a few weeks back someone from the griff collective declared that the land used for a solar farm can be used to grow crops.

        • And it can, a fine crop of weeds.
          .
          And it can, about 2 years after the solar farm is decommissioned and removed
          .
          I suppose you could grow a low lying crop that didn’t require direct sunlight or direct rainfall

    • Noted that griffool cannot put forward one piece of evidence to contradict those FACTS.

      Just a whinging whining pathetic little whimper.

      1… Solar panels absorb energy.. OF COURSE they cause warming far more than CO2 can

      and yes it has been measured, warming by atmospheric CO2, never has been.

      2… Yes, they DO blanket habitat , forests removed, species displaced.

      3… Yes, they DO cause massive ecological damage from their toxic mining and mineral extraction, through their production and installation, to the environment and species damage done in their short lifetime, to the final removal of their toxic un-recyclable components. Ecological disaster from start to finish.

    • Griff. That bit about UK mine owners is an outright lie. What wildlife do you think thrives under solar panels apart from earthworms? I’ve seen the devastation caused by installing turbines and their access roads. You’re just a willfully ignorant fool.

    • Once again griff seems to believe that a simple declaration of negation is sufficient to over rule well known physical facts.

    • Griff,
      Enlighten us as to exactly what crop could be grown beneath a solar array that…
      1) Grows best in indirect sunlight
      2) Doesn’t require further irrigation than indirect seasonal rainfall
      3) Doesn’t grow taller than half the distance from the ground to the panel
      4) Doesn’t require mechanical harvesting to prove profitable
      5) Doesn’t require direct sunlight to ripen prior to the harvest

      Perhaps a Herd of Turtles

  12. “Well, sunshine is certainly free and clean. However, there is a monumental caveat. Harnessing sunshine (and wind) to serve humanity is not free – or clean, green, renewable or sustainable.”

    Fossil fuels are natural, clean, biodegradable and free. However finding and recovering fossil fuels is not free.
    However, it is still pretty clean (especially burning natural gas) and still involves a product which is natural and biodegradable.

  13. Ah, the Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again. I love it. You can’t beat the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

  14. “They are omitting the pollution and disposal costs, as well as habitat losses, solar heat islands, and the need for backup power generation or batteries….”

    And, converting a forest to a solar “farm” results in the annual loss of about a ton of carbon sequestration from the forest (in New England) – a reality NEVER, NEVER, NEVER discussed by anyone- at least not by lovers of the solar industry. And, the loss of oxygen production- something we all like. And if the “farm” is near homes- it lowers their property values.

  15. It appears that the problems associated with solar panels and windmills is starting to penetrate minds on the Left.

    That’s a good thing. It’s about time they wake up to reality. Nuclear energy is the only real solution for alarmists fixated on reducing CO2 production. The sooner they figure that out, the better off all of us will be.

    • NIMBY is starting to become an issue that people can see. A lot of folks are starting to see the monstrosities and are beginning to realize they’ll be coming to their backyards soon!

    • But .. but .. but ‘renewable’ and ‘sustainable’ and ‘free’ are so appealing that surely anything being peddled to us under such charming notions will prove irresistible as they practically erase our sense of personal mortality too while we and all our buddies heroically strive to save our very planet from demise. It’s our ticket to righteousness, baby!

    • But EMP or another Carrington event would cause the nuclear reactors to melt down spewing radiation. Unless it’s a thorium reactor.

  16. No one seems to mention that the production of the silicon metal by carbothermic reduction of lump quartz in the presence of carbon releases huge amounts of CO2 in to the atmosphere. If you are an honest carbophobe this should make you cringe in shame and horror. Oh well, most people don’t know where silicon comes from, so . . .

  17. The market is now responding, and here in France PV Cycle deals with our old panels (20-25yrs old) that have reached their end life. Veolia are also getting involved, and I believe Geltz Umwelt-Technologie are creating plants in Germany.

    We pay what we call an eco-participation or eco- contribution, or even eco-tax, which is a “cost” added to the selling price of electrical or electronic devices including solar panels sold in France. On average, the eco-participation is around 0.52 euro / kg .
    It must compensate for the cost of collecting and treating electrical and electronic waste, at the end of their life, and is entirely paid to the organisations carrying out these tasks.
    This cost is distributed roughly as: 74% for treatment, 14% for transport and 12% for administration and information costs.

    Having said all that I personally don’t see the point of big scale Solar that creates small amounts of energy that could easily be produced by Nuclear.

    Looking at today, solar is providing the grid with 3.87 GW of power in France. Nuclear is producing 28.6 GW out of a capacity of 63.1 GW. Scrap the measly solar input and push nuclear production to 32.47 GW job done.

    You’re still at about half your Nuke production capacity and saved yourself a lot of recycling hassle and you’ve added nothing to your carbon footprint which is what all this fuss is about isn’t it?

    • check out the costs of keeping older French nuclear plant running, or of decommissioning it… also supplying alternative power in summer when rivers are low/warm and plant can’t run

      • The cost of decommissioning a nuclear plant is built into the operating cost of that plant. The cost of running one is by nature, built into the price charged for electricity.

        I call BS on your claim that the nuclear plants can’t run in the summer because of low water levels. Do you really believe they would built a plant in a place where it couldn’t be used for a portion of the year?

      • I know you never listen, but for anyone else reading…..
        To your 1st point: Maintenance
        A recent example would be the Chooz first generation REP nuclear power station which came online over 20 years ago and this year will benefit from a modernisation investment of 100 million euros to allow it to last for another 40 years. I think that’s expensive but worthwhile, and I presume the accountants at EDF do too.
        In 1 year that plants ​​electricity production provided 18 billion kilowatt-hours (without creating more CO²) to the national grid. By the way for that price you get electricity at night, and the weathers can do what it likes.

        To your 2nd point: Decommissioning
        This is all part of the scheduled nuclear reactor life cycle, so currently 9 reactors are being decommissioned in France and EDF assumes sole financial responsibility for that decommissioning. The cost is factored into the operation from the start and is included in the price of the kilowatt-hour. It is re-assessed every three years to take account of changing technical and financial assumptions, as required by French law.
        The decommissioned sites can then become new power plants, taking advantage of newer technology.

        To your 3rd point: River water temperature and water levels
        These are potential problems granted, but they are so rare and insignificant they can’t justifiably be used as an argument.
        It has only occurred on certain rivers at times of exceptional heatwaves 2003, 2018 for example, with interruptions being short, and any loss of electricity easily being compensated for by other Nuclear plants, all this during the summer when power consumption is very low, and with zero risk to plant safety.

        All the same, there is nothing to suggest that an alternative intermittent unreliable power source would even be available to provide back up, it’s kinda one of the problems with them.

      • “griff September 20, 2020 at 8:08 am

        …check out the costs of keeping older French nuclear plant running, or of decommissioning it…”

        Show the figures or shut up!

    • From a quick read, I saw no discussion of the costs of implementing such a system, or the pollution issues it creates. And not that I concur that CO2 is an issue, but it would appear the process requires much energy that has to come from somewhere. I wonder how much of lifetime generation capacity would be taken up in production and then recycling the panels?

  18. It’s always been obvious to me that if you want to “protect nature” you don’t cover it with hundreds of square miles of panels to block out the light

  19. This site generates only a mountain of idiocy
    Do you have an idea how big is your electronic waste ? And where are you eliminating it ?
    How long do you suppose to burn oil ?
    The sun will continue to give energy in a billion of years …
    Only fake News …

    • I suppose you mean ‘our electronic waste’. But it seems from this article that solar too is not sustainable when it is harvested with today’s solar panels. What if we run out of cheap silver?

    • What part do people here have wrong?
      The engineering and costing show that it takes more energy to produce the solar panels (and wind turbines) than you ever get out of them.
      So they are a net negative on CO2 before you get to any of the other problems.

      If CO2 is a real problem then nuclear is the only real option.
      Solar and wind is just virtue signalling that destroys more than it creates, just like the Trudeau Liberals here in Canada.

      Why push for a useless net negative?
      So you can feel better about yourself?
      To solve an unproven issue, CO2?

      So much shame

    • Compared to the volume of solar panels that would be needed to power the country, the volume of used electronics is tiny. Very, very tiny.

      How long do we propose to continue burning oil. At present rates, somewhere between 500 and 1000 years.

      The sun will continue to give energy for about 4 billion years, not just 1 billion. However it will still remain too diffuse to gather economically.

    • “How long do you suppose to burn oil ?
      The sun will continue to give energy in a billion of years …
      Only fake News …”

      We plan to burn oil as long as it is available. Then we will go nuclear with maybe some space-based solar thrown in the mix.

      The sun will continue to give energy for billions of years. The cost to harvest the sun’s energy using solar panels and windmills is too high and is so impractical that it can’t be made to power the world.

      The only “fake news” here is your misunderstanding of the situation

  20. Bout time for this article and hopefully more just like it. Start exposing the pollution involved. And while we’re at it, the “recycling” debacle of plastic too.

    • In Canada we set up contracts in the third world to recycle our plastic
      They do so by dumping it into the ocean.
      A very high percentage of our plastic is “recycled” and yet so much of it ends up in that North Pacific gyre, this should be fairly obvious

      We have a costly blue bin system in calgary, there will soon be limits to how much you can black bin (garbage) to ensure you recycle
      More plastic for the ocean.

      High temperature burn, cogen, much better

      • The Vancouver waste to energy 24 MW plant right in the city of Burnaby, BC processes 281,000 tons of garbage a year from Greater Vancouver and shows this can be safely done in in a leftist city no less. The facility sustainably processes approximately 25 percent of Metro Vancouver’s post-recycled waste, mainly from the North Shore, Burnaby and New Westminster. They also recover 6,230 tons of metal for recycling annually – enough to build 5,000 cars. Sure makes sense to me, burning garbage.

        https://www.covanta.com/where-we-are/our-facilities/burnaby

  21. Personally I am 100% for 100% solar power

    Hydrocarbons are solar power, helpfully concentrated by nature into a usable, energy rich form

    We clearly need more of that

    Solar farms are just a hugely inefficient and destructive way to achieve the same result, concentrated usable energy

    • Since they are mostly fibreglass, melt them into a NoPost type concrete barrier, to place on highways for safety either for centreline protection, or on corners for vehicle protection driving into the ditch. Once they are in this form, they will last a really long time. Takes more energy to process them into something like this, but may as well come up with a solution to a higher use instead of landfilling them, which also has a high cost. Amazing that they get away with no plan to recycle them at their end of life in 20-25 years. The old ones from the late 90’s are now up for disposal, and whole lot more to come available real soon. A ton of coking coal will melt a fair bit of fibreglass. That TV show called Made by Destruction should do a segment on ideas to recycle recyclables.

        • A solution with 38 percent hydrochloric acid will dissolve the resin slowly when in contact with the fibreglass, and when heated, it can be de-formed under heat and pressure into a mould to make a different useful shape. Chop and shred it before treating with the hydrochloric acid, then add heat and pressure and press into a new mould. Takes more energy, which should be added to the lifetime ROI.

          Might need some more research to ensure there is no harmful environmental byproduct in the process or post process, (leaching) but the fibreglass mass itself should be able to be pressed into a new shape that could be useful for something. Maybe it is more virtue signalling to make something useful out if the cost is that more prohibitive than say, making the same product from pure concrete. In that case, maybe land fill is the only solution, which should be another nail in the coffin for Big Wind if it can’t be recycled after 20-25 years.

          Just goes to show that they didn’t even do a proper end of life assessment in some kind of original environmental review of the materials that the wind turbines are made out of.

          • Not to mention the needless death of many birds, raptors at risk, bats, insects, not to mention any climatic effect that extracting energy out of the lower atmosphere might have to the permanent climate in general. We just don’t know how everything affects everything else.

            Even many farmers are now saying they obviously can’t use crop spraying airplanes when their farms are littered with these giant monstrosities that cost an arm and leg to the general population through subsidies that go to sleazy stock market/hedge funds just trying to make a quick buck on getting these contracts approved. It’s time for a major political review of this nefarious industry.

      • Fiberglass does not just melt.It is not a form of plastic .iI once burned a portion of a derelict plywood and fiberglass boat hull. Guess what i pulled out of the ashes with the remaining metal hardware?The fiberglass matting,still flexible and woven together.I then bagged it up and placed it into the trash,destined for a landfill.

        • It would have to be crushed and shredded mechanically, perhaps dissolving the resins, and reconstituting it into another shape through heat and pressure and perhaps more resins. Probably not worth all the work and more expense than just making the same product from scratch. So maybe they are uneconomically unrecyclable and just bury them whole. What an exercise in futility these wind ‘renewables’ are turning into. Even after their short life time, the turbine blades probably can’t be economically dealt with other than landfilling them. And then also, what about their massive cement foundations that aren’t going anywhere fast. I guess they just get buried indefinitely too. What a waste of resources.

        • Yes, nearly impossible to recycle. You would think glass would re-melt. It would have to be reground mechanically, perhaps dissolving the resins, and reconstituting it into another shape through heat and pressure and adding perhaps more resins. That is what is presently done in limited circumstances , which they make recycled planks for park benches etc.

          Probably not worth all the work and more expense than just making the same product from scratch. So maybe they are uneconomically unrecyclable and just bury them whole. What an exercise in futility these wind ‘renewables’ are turning into. Even after their short life time, the turbine blades probably can’t be economically dealt with other than landfilling them. And then also, what about their massive cement foundations that aren’t going anywhere fast. I guess they just get buried indefinitely too. What a waste of resources for a lousy solution to creating electricity.

  22. Here in the once wonderful state of Virginia, the leftist progressive governor is pushing for alleged renewable energy and he approved a German company to market solar panels and solicit large solar panel installations.

    It took some digging as their public ads implied silicon solar cells.
    Except in the details their actual installation plans are to install cadmium telluride solar panels.

    Where they answer questions about their planned installation they swear cadmium telluride is absolutely safe.
    Only the manufacturer’s cadmium telluride chemical properties PDF, describes cadmium telluride as:

    “Safety Information
    GHS Hazard Statements
    • H302 – Harmful if swallowed
    • H312 – Harmful in contact with skin
    • H332 – Harmful if inhaled
    • H410 – Very toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects.

    Safety Precautions
    • P273 – Avoid release to the environment
    • P280 – Wear protective gloves/ protective clothing
    • P501 – Dispose of contents/ container to an approved waste disposal plant.”

    The official MDS paper notes that cracked and broken cadmium telluride solar panels are toxic waste and highly dangerous.
    That is, not fit for ordinary waste disposal; e.g. landfills.

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