The unstated environmental prices • Are you pleased with it?
For more than a decade, climate skeptics have warned of the not-so-distant consequences of the global push toward renewable energy, particularly solar panels. Their concerns, all too often dismissed or overlooked, are now making headlines. A recent BBC podcast entitled ‘The Climate Question’ raises serious questions about the lifetime and end-of-life management of solar panels, questions we’ve been repeating for years.
While touted around the world as a crucial weapon in reducing carbon emissions, solar panels only have a lifespan of up to 25 years.
writes Daniel Gordon of BBC Sounds. Given the sheer number of panels installed worldwide, this is a significant problem. like dr Rong Deng states:
The world has more than a terawatt of solar capacity installed… it could be as high as 2.5 billion solar panels.
The truth is that solar panels don’t last forever. And as they age, billions of them will eventually need to be disposed of and replaced, creating what Ute Collier, deputy director of the International Renewable Energy Agency, describes as a potential “garbage mountain by 2050.” In response to this emerging issue, Ms Collier is calling for “urgent government action”.
Despite the exciting boom in solar panel installation, there is an urgent need to address this imminent waste wave.
We expect to have four million tons by 2030 [of scrap] – which is still manageable – but by 2050 we could reach over 200 million tons worldwide,
warns Mrs. Collier. To put it in perspective, that’s half the amount of plastic currently produced globally each year.
The challenge of recycling these discarded panels is even more daunting. While traditional recycling methods are able to recover most of the aluminum and glass, they struggle to extract and recover the more valuable materials like silver and copper. According to Mr. Nicolas Defrenne, over 60% of the value of solar panels is contained in just 3% of their weight. However, these materials are intertwined with other components, making their separation economically difficult.
Additionally, there simply isn’t enough infrastructure to meet these recycling needs. And as the first generation of solar panels nears the end of their useful lives, the clock is ticking. “Now is the time to think about it,” Ms. Collier insists.
Initiatives such as ROSI are born, the world’s first factory dedicated exclusively to the recycling of solar panels. These early-stage ventures offer hope that even if the onslaught of dodgy solar farms continues, it’s not too late to turn this potential environmental disaster around.
Even if someone decides it’s a good idea to move away from fossil fuels, if only to conserve them as resources for future generations, this story underscores the need for a balanced approach to our energy solutions – one that’s not just immediate Benefits considered, but also long-term environmental costs.
Duh….nuclear power has to be involved.