Making Solar Panels in China Takes Lots of Dirty Energy

Manufacturing solar panels can be a dirty business, from the mining of raw materials to the chemical-laced process of purifying silicon to the assembly of silicon wafers.
 
Solar energy is a renewable source, of course, but it’s essential to examine the full supply chain to gauge its total environmental impact. One potential concern is the use, containment, and disposal of toxic chemicals. Another is the energy-efficiency of the manufacturing process and the source of the energy used.
 
Researchers at Northwestern University and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory recently examined the solar panel production process in different locations and published their findings in the July issue of the journal Solar Energy. “We estimated that a solar panel’s carbon footprint is about twice as high when made in China and used in Europe, compared to those locally made and used in Europe,” says Fengqi You, a co-author of the paper and an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering at Northwestern. “While it might be an economically attractive option to move solar panel manufacturing from Europe to China, it is actually less sustainable from the life cycle energy and environmental perspective.”
 
The primary differences, the researchers found, are the less stringent enforcement of environmental regulations in China coupled with the country’s more coal-dependent power sector. “It takes a lot of energy to extract and process solar-grade silicon,” says co-author Seth Darling. “And in China, that energy tends to come from dirtier and less efficient energy sources than it does in Europe.”

Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.


Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

Solar FlexRack - TDP Turnkey Tracker

Solar FlexRack - TDP Turnkey Tracker

Solar FlexRack TDP™ Turnkey Trackers are the next generation, single-axis solar tracker solution, complete with comprehensive services and support. What sets this tracking solution apart is its updated tracking technology bundled with a full suite of best-in-class project services and support for commercial and utility-scale solar customers. The TDP Turnkey Tracker offers the lowest total cost solution by providing the only tracker in the industry that includes full design, installation, commissioning, and support services bundled in one contract. Solar FlexRack's TDP Solar Tracker solution is supported by an in-house team of experts that includes mechanical, structural, civil, electrical and geotechnical engineers and geologists. To learn more about Solar FlexRack's TDP Turnkey Tracker, one of the most cost-effective and comprehensive tracker solutions available, please visit: http://solarflexrack.com/products/tracker.