Are the solar panels manufacturing plants disposing waste properly in order to conserve environment?
Are there enough regulations to ensure that the manufacturers of solar panels dispose of their industrial waste responsibly?
Are their enough regulations to govern the components that can be used in the manufactures of the solar panels?
Justifications of the Research Questions
There have been questions on the environmental-friendliness and toxicity of the chemical compounds that have been utilized in the manufacture of solar panels. With the rise in popularity of solar energy as a renewable source of energy, the production and installation of solar panels has increased exponentially all over the United States and the rest of the world. Like, any other devices that convert energy into different forms, solar panels are made of a complex combination of chemical compounds that enable them to covert the light energy from the sun into electricity.
In order to analyze the environmental-friendliness and the toxicity of the components utilized in the manufacture of solar panels, it is important to understand all the components used in its manufacture. Comprehending these components will enable us to understand if the components are toxic to the environment either in their final form or during the manufacturing. Thus, this paper will determine the components required for the manufacture of the solar panels and their effects on the environment.
Solar panels plans are using a wide range of products in order to produce energy. The industrial process produces a large amount of industrial waste with varying levels of toxicity. Thus it becomes necessary to determine how the waste is disposed of. We will analyze whether the plants are investing adequately in the treatment of its waste and whether the treated or untreated waste is disposed of properly. Questions will also be asked on whether the industries in the solar panel manufacturing business are willing and able to recycle any recyclable waste in order to reduce the waste released into the environment.
Government policies are very important in the conservation of the environment. We will analyze if there are adequate regulations that have been put in place to regulate the manufacture of solar panels. This will involve the steps put in place to ensure that the manufacturers protect the environment through recycling of the components and are rewarded for exemplary performance in environmental conservation or punished for involvement in unethical behavior. Government policies on recycling of waste, proper disposal of waste and environmental rating of the suppliers of these manufacturers will be determined.
Hypotheses refer to proposed descriptions that are used to explain phenomena. In this research proposal, it is necessary to develop hypotheses based on the available knowledge to guide the research. Thus, to guide our research, the following hypotheses listed below were developed. In the course of the research, these hypotheses will be vividly analyzed.
Some components used in the manufacture of solar panels are toxic and environmentally unfriendly.
Solar panels manufacturing plants are disposing waste from the manufacturing process irresponsibly.
There are insufficient regulations that govern the manufacturing of solar panel and the disposal of waste from the manufacturing plants.
The world has been hugely powered by crude oil natural and coal since their discovery in the middle of the 19th century. Currently, more than three-quarters of the energy consumed in the world is derived from fossil fuels (Jones & Stephen, 2015). However, there been a shift in energy with governments encouraging the shift from non-renewable energy to renewable energy. This shift is leading to the decreasing demand for non-renewable energy
The major reason for the shift has been based on the adverse effects of non-renewable energy sources such as crude oil, natural gas, and coal on the environment. The combustion of these fossil fuels to produce energy has resulted to the release of harmful gases such as carbon (II) oxide, carbon (IV) oxide and other greenhouse gases which have damaging effects on the ozone layer (McHenry, 2015). These gases have resulted in the thinning of the ozone layer leading to global warming. Global warming has also resulted in the rise in sea levels. The rise in sea levels is a threat to communities living along the shores of oceans as well the ecosystem in those areas. With an increase in temperature, the ice long the poles and on top of large mountains has been melting and this has led to a rise in sea level. The air pollution that has been caused combustion of fossil fuels has been blamed for smog due to the nitrous and sulfur oxides which have resulted to increase in respiratory diseases to humans and damage to plants and vegetation.
In order to reduce the effects of non-renewable energy on the environment, the energy producers are leaning towards green energy (Helder, 2015). Due to the availability of sunlight all over the world and its reliability, many countries are choosing the sunlight as the source of energy. Production of electricity from solar energy involves the use of solar panels to convert the light energy into electric energy. These solar panels have an efficiency of approximately 20%. Solar panels are very popular for low energy production due to their reliability which is attributed to lack of moving parts and a long lifespan which is usually approximately thirty years. There are also very easy to install. The portability of the solar panels enables them to be to be used in powering moving equipment. Solar panels do not need to be connected to the national grid and thus can be utilized in the remote areas.
Solar panels which are also known as photovoltaic cells are mainly constructed of semiconducting materials such as silicon, cadmium telluride and gallium telluride (Taylor, 2010). The role of these semiconducting materials is the conversion of solar energy into electric energy. As the cells absorb energy from the sun, free holes and electrons are created at the positive and negative junctions of the semi-conductors. The energy is then transferred to batteries or to dc equipment for storage or to operate the equipment.
Currently, there are three major types of solar panels on the market. These panels are classified based on the technology incorporated in the manufacturing process and the semiconductors it utilizes (Gaast & Begg, 2012). These major types include crystalline Silicon photovoltaic Module, Amorphous Silicon module, and hybrid silicon module. In crystalline silicon module, the PV cell is made by the use of monocrystalline silicon or polycrystalline silicon. With the mono-crystalline module, the efficiency is slightly higher compared to the polycrystalline module. However, this efficiency ranges between 10 and 12%. The amorphous silicon module contains a thin silicon strip that absorbs lights. It is very expensive but has high efficiency. It is utilized in applications that require high efficiency whereby the cost of manufacturing is not important. Hybrid silicon solar panel module utilizes both the crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon. This makes it very sensitive to low light levels or indirect sunlight. The combination of the two models makes the hybrid silicon module more efficient compared to both crystalline silicon and amorphous silicon modules.
According to Woody (2010), the solar power has its dirty side. Woody (2010) explains that the solar panels reconstructed with a witch's break; a toxic combination of chemicals such as lead, polyvinyl fluoride, hexafluoroethane, cadmium telluride, and arsenic. Although these toxic chemicals do not provide any immediate danger during the working period of the solar panel, these chemicals are released as the lifespan of the panel comes to an end. Thus, the solar panels become a major pollutant when they are disposed into scrap heaps.
The industrial processing of the solar panels leaves the workers exposed to pollutants which can adversely affect their health. Polysilicon plays a major role in the formation of solar panel cells. To form pure polysilicon, metallurgical-grade silicon is purified and this produces a by-product referred to as silicon tetrachloride. In the refining process, metallurgical-grade silicon is mixed with hydrochloric acid and this forms trichlorosilane which is then reacted with concentrated hydrochloric acid to form polysilicon (Taylor, 2010). Thus, in solar panels manufacturing plants, the employees are exposed to these chemicals. Irresponsible disposal of industrial waste from these plants can adversely affect the environment in the areas surrounding the plants.
The waste from the manufacturing process and the disposal of the dead solar panel are damaging the reputation of the solar energy. This has been worsened by competition between rival companies as they struggle to produce low-cost solar panels. The competition has forced many companies to cut costs and thus have had to utilize hazardous methods of disposing of waste. The low-cost producers, especially from the developing world, have been caused so much pollution that it has been compared with the pollution from the electronics industry in the advent of microprocessors (Hodgson, 2013). According to Kelly (2017), a study by Environment Progress in 2017 showed that the waste produced by solar energy per unit energy is three hundred times more toxic than the waste in nuclear power plants. Whereas the nuclear waste is disposed of carefully, poor disposal of the waste from the solar energy makes it more hazardous.
Whereas countries that have an established solar panel processing plants have established rules that govern treatment of the waste, developing solar panel producing nation do not have such laws and thus, the solar-panel producers have had no obligations to ensure that their industrial waste is managed responsibly. This is very rife in developing countries where governments have not yet developed the regulation or lack the resources to enforce the regulations. In the United States, it is necessary for the solar companies to report the waste produced and how it disposed of. Analyzing the reports available in the United States it is clear that companies such as Solyndra produced more than twelve million pounds of waste such as carcinogenic water that had been contaminated with cadmium (Hodgson, 2013). The more worry statistics involves organizations that have produced millions of pound of waste without producing a single solar panel. These were businesses that had invested immensely in research and development as they fine-tuned their production or developed their technology.
In some countries such as India and China, disposed solar panels are burned in order to re-use the valuable copper wires (Kelly, 2017). Since the waste can be considered as a form of e-waste, burning of it releases toxic fumes which are teratogenic and carcinogenic into the atmosphere. This can result in adverse health problems to the people who live in the close proximity to the factories (Kelly, 2017).
The careless disposal of the waste derived from the manufacture of the solar panels has led to deaths and damages to agricultural land (Zenher, 2012). The solid waste disposed of contains chemicals which may kill or adversely damage the plants as well as the plant and animal life. Water containing carcinogen compounds that are disposed from solar panels manufacturing plants can kill or main the aquatic lives such as fish or water plant when it is disposed of untreated into rivers.
Thus there is a need for government to create and enforce regulations that...
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