Breaking Down the Greenness of Solar Panels


Solar power is widely recognized as one of the greenest forms of renewable energy in the world. However, it is important to understand the level of toxicity involved in the production, installation, and disposal of solar panels.

Solar Panel Manufacturing Process

In order to produce solar panels, certain chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid and sodium hydroxide are required. Both water and electricity are also used in the production process, which, when combined with chemicals, can create a substantial amount of greenhouse gases. It is important to note that different solar panel manufacturers produce varying amounts of waste, with some companies producing fewer greenhouse gases than others.

Is There a Massive Cover-Up?

There is no substantial cover-up regarding greenhouse gases and solar paneling, but with the popularity of solar power increasing every year, some in the industry may not want this information to be widely known simply because it may reduce the trend of solar power. Some companies dilute information regarding toxic waste and greenhouse gases in order to focus on the renewable energy element.

Scoring Solar Companies

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition evaluates several variables, including water use, recycling methods, emissions, and chemical toxicity, to determine how environmentally friendly a solar panel manufacturer is. All of the information used to score the toxicity of a company and its manufacturing process comes directly from the information reported by the companies themselves. In recent years, the Coalition has noted that some solar panel manufacturers have reduced the amount of information shared with them. A quarter of solar panel manufacturers withhold almost all information, usually the generic producers who aim to boost productivity while reducing costs. Hence, customers must know where their solar paneling is coming from and conduct research ahead of time to obtain quality products. It is vital to choose a solar panel company that is willing to provide this information.

Location Matters

The cleanest solar panel manufacturer is based in China, yet the majority of manufacturers in China are not at the same level. Environmental standards in China are less stringent than those in the United States and Europe, making the carbon footprint of a Chinese manufacturer twice that of a European one. Therefore, it is important to consider not only the company manufacturing the products but also the nation the company is based in when selecting solar panels.

The Verdict on Solar

Solar power generates electricity with zero emissions once installed, making it safer for the environment than other forms of energy such as coal, natural gas, and nuclear fission. While toxic compounds are used in the manufacturing of most solar panels, the industry’s safety record speaks for itself, offering less danger for workers in the trade. In 2010, coal-fired power plants alone were responsible for emitting 1,999.6 million tons of carbon dioxide in the United States and 13,200 deaths directly attributable to particulates from coal-fired power plants.

Solar – The Essential Renewable

Solar power is an essential renewable energy source for a future off-the-grid. It is vital to consider the environmental impact of any energy option to ensure a sustainable energy source. While there are challenges in the solar sector, it is important to keep in perspective the different types of energy currently in use, whether renewable or not. As the solar industry matures, solar companies will adopt stronger sustainability measures, improving the viability of solar as renewable energy for the future.