Polysilicon Dangers

It is no secret that solar panels are in high demand around the world, as they are looked at as a good source for renewable energy. And indeed on the surface, who could argue with the concept that our energy should come from the sun and create zero emissions in the process.

Photo Credit: ReutersBut in a recent WashingtonPost article I read about one ingredient needed to capture solar energy that I had never heard of before; Polysilcon. Now Polysilicon is apparently in 99% of electronics, and an essential component of solar panels.  Manufacturing that polysilicon creates waste, and while the process of making it requires a large amount of energy, the process of recycling the waste is yet another costly process.  And as Corpwatch and the WashingtonPost have recently pointed out, in places like China, alot of manufacturers are choosing not to do the recycling part… choosing instead to dump the waste.

As the demand for solar panels skyrockets, the value of polysilicon has gone through the roof.  The reporter at the Post refers to Chinese Polysilicon companies as the “.com’s” of China.  While business is booming, companies are cutting corners and dumping that waste wherever they can.  Land where polysilicon waste is dumped or buried becomes contimanated; nothing can grow there and people should not live nearby.

I strongly recommending reading the article for the full details.  There is definitely an issue here that needs addressing.  If solar energy is indeed one of our main sources of energy for a sustainable future, then something must be done to make sure the process of getting the tools we need to harness that energy, doesn’t wind up destroying the earth and countless lives.

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