ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Double Green – Extended Producer Responsibility in the Solar Industry

Updated on July 3, 2012
Source

How sustainable is PV

It is a little bit like calling an electric vehicle “zero emission” car. Considering where the electricity to charge the car in most cases comes from, it is far from zero. I absolutely think EV and hybrid cars are great, and any approach to help reduce pollution should be pursued, it’s just the impression of the label. However, at least there is a possibility that the source of that electricity is not fossil fuel, but some renewable energy power plant. So back to the topic, is photovoltaic technology the mother of all green energy?

Life Cycle Assessment

A study about “Emissions from Photovoltaic Lifecycles” was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in 2008 and is available for download. It is an assessment of the environmental impact of four major types, monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and ribbon Silicon, as well as Cadmium Telluride (CdTe) thin film PV cells during their whole life cycle. This includes, e.g., purification of the Silicon and CdTe and electricity used for the production of the modules and BOS (balance of system components like inverters, batteries, wiring, mounts, etc.). Heavy metal, toxic gas, and green house gas emissions mainly result from the production process, but even with all those emissions taken into account, the study in short showed that replacing grid electricity with central PV systems would still have great environmental benefits (with around 90% reduction of emissions for CdTe cells).

Afterlife

Photovoltaic panels have a life expectancy of an estimated 25 to 30 years. Reaching the end-of-life poses the questions of what will happen with the fast growing number of no more functioning PV panels? Estimates talk between 18 000 to 35 000 t of PV waste in 2020 in Europe. Solar panels consist of a number of materials (mostly glass, aluminum, copper, semiconductor material), which are valuable and perfect for recycling, and efforts are slowly being made to address this issue.

Arizona CdTe thin film producer First Solar was the first company to offer a module collection and recycle program and to implement extended producer responsibility (EPR). EPR is a strategy, which holds the manufacturer responsible for the whole cycle of their product. It is an important measure, when it comes to reduce the excessive amount of electronic waste, for example. In this case, the price for the modules already includes estimated pickup and recycling costs by setting aside a special fund. In a nutshell, the CdTe semiconductor is separated from the glass, with a recycling rate of 95% for the semiconductor material and 90% for the glass. Abound Solar located in Colorado, was another US thin film manufacturer, who took on responsibility. Like First Solar, the consumer just needed to uninstall the panel and place it in the provided packaging material. They filed for bankruptcy in June 2012, blaming Chinese competition. They also were member of PV CYCLE, a 2007 founded European non-profit organization dedicated to voluntary collecting and recycling of all sorts of PV technologies. The association’s members and recycling partners aim for a recycling rate of 80% in 2015. The largest PV manufacturer in the US, Solarworld, claims on their website that they are the “first to fully recycle crystalline PV modules” and have pioneered their recycling program. PV Recycling LLC is an Arizona company and goes a different way, as they specialize in collecting and solar recycling as a third party recycler.

Voluntary is better than nothing - for now

Those are all steps in the right direction to make solar technologies ‘double green’, but there is still the lack of governmental regulations. Right now it seems to be mostly in the hands of the responsible consumer to choose high quality PV panels from an innovative company over cheap, low quality dumping products.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)