Washington: Solar energy is synonymous to green technology but what many don’t know is that the process of making solar panels involves the use of potentially toxic substances and lots of energy.
Current silicon-based solar panels, which represent about 80 percent of the global market, are energy-intensive and rely on materials that pose potential health and environmental risks.
In order to be truly ‘green’ manufacturers must adopt more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and plan for the safe end-of-service-life disposal of the panels, says CandEN Associate Editor Sarah Everts.
Some manufacturers have already started making changes. Some are setting up programs that will collect and recycle panels after their 20-25 year lifespan.
Others are trying to reduce the amount of energy required to produce the panels. A few are trying to change the production process in order to replace toxic materials with more eco-friendly ones.
But at the same time, they face the challenge of developing more efficient solar cells, which could require the use of more energy-intensive processes and more materials.
"Resolving these challenges — perhaps with new manufacturing processes altogether — will ensure that photovoltaics [solar panels] don``t just produce renewable energy but are themselves renewably produced," the article states.
The article is published in the current edition of Chemical and Engineering News.