Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Dark Side of Solar

As if to rebut my last blog post on the positive environmental performance of PV generated electricity vis-a-vis fossil fuel derived power, the Washing Post has run an excellent expose on the collateral damage of polysilicon (a raw ingredient to crystalline-based PV solar cells) production in China. Silicon tetrachloride, a highly toxic byproduct of polysilicon processing, is being dumped by Chinese polysilicon factories into the soil rather than being reprocessed, so as to cut investment costs and time.

The result? The global solar boom in the likes of Germany and the US is creating a toxic legacy of silicon tetrachloride dumping by Chinese polysilicon factories.

Ironic and depressing. Kinda like this story in the New York Times about glycerol dumping by biofuel plant operators, or this piece in an old blog I used to maintain on tropical rainforest deforestation in Indonesia for the sake of planting oil palm for biodiesel.

All this means that we'll soon be needing certification systems for the audit of the supply chain of our clean energy.

3 comments:

Campbell said...

Everything can be outsourced, including pollution. Similar to how Southern California exported its polluting industries to Mexico. Now LA has cleaner air than it did in the past, even with all the new cars on the road.

A clean environment is a national resource, just like timber or oil. Countries with poor environmental regulations are exploiting a resource for all for the benefit of a few.

Allie said...

It's so frustrating! A lot of times it seems like half the green solutions we find end up doing more harm than good.

learningtolearn said...

I was wondering, does anyone know of any dumping (say of...glycerol: the by-product of biofuel) that is being done here in the DC area?