Spent nuclear fuel may be with us forever, burnt fossil fuels foul the air and water, poorly-sited wind turbines threaten the forests, birds and bats. But photovoltaic solar panels are clean, right? Not according to an AP report, Solar Industry Grapples With Hazardous Wastes.
According to the report, the manufacture of panels creates vast quantities of polluted sludge and contaminated water which must be transported hundreds or thousands of miles by rail or truck to waste facilities. The energy spent disposing of that sludge and water is not often figured into the efficiency of solar. Solar is still some ten times cleaner than fossil fuels, but is not quite as squeaky clean as we’d like to believe.
Passive solar and solar hot water are certainly much cleaner than the manufacturing of PV panels, but anything we build will engender some sort of waste, particularly if it generates electricity.