Heavy metals in solar panels a liability for the environment - study
Traces of hazardous heavy metals in solar panels could put a serious strain on the environment if the world’s estimated 3,700 square kilometres of panels are not disposed of carefully, Daniel Wetzel writes in the weekly newspaper Welt am Sonntag. According to a study commissioned by the German economy ministry (BMWi) and carried out by the University of Stuttgart’s Institute for Photovoltaics, all silicon-based panels contain several grams of carcinogenic cadmium and lead, which could seep into the water cycle if the panels are treated incautiously after their retirement. “Not even a technologically and politically well-organised country” could guarantee that all old panels are handled appropriately, the researchers write, adding that much of the world’s solar power expansion is set to take place in less wealthy countries around the equator. While producing cleaner panels is possible, European manufacturers initially resisted tight rules in the EU to reduce costs, Wetzel writes, adding that they now seem to embrace such rules as stricter standards in Europe would pose much bigger challenges for large-scale Chinese manufacturers than for smaller and more specialised European solar power firms.
Find an online version of the article in German here.