Trace metals present in solar cells and panels and waste generated by 2050 (IRENA, 2016)

Besides CO2 emissions during its life cycle, the solar cells and panels contain considerable amounts of trace elements that are not environmentally friendly. Indiscriminate  disposal of solar panels after its use ( the current panels life span is about 5 years. The different solar cells and panels that are currently in use and the trace elements present in them are listed below (IRENA, 2016).

c-Si pv panels:  8% Al, 0.1 % Ag, and Pb

CIGS panels: 10 % Cu, 28% In, 10 % Ga, 52 % Ce

Cd Te panels:  Ni, Zn, Sn  > 0.26%

Besides these elements, one of the challenges faced by recycling of solar panels is removal of ethylene vinyl-acetate (encapsulant material). The recovery potential of all elements here is very low and even if one exists it is highly energy intensive (emitting large amount of CO2).

Now, while solar pv generated electricity is christened as “renewable” and low carbon emitting energy source, what is renewable here and how is this source environmentally friendly. No doubt the Sun Energy is renewable and low carbon emitter but not the media that converts this energy to electricity.

By the year 2020, 78 million of pv panel waste will be generated globally.

Instead of finding a solution for escalating global temperature this renewable energy source is causing increase in atmospheric temperature.