Solar companies grapple with hazardous waste disposal

Posted: Feb 12, 2013

Written by

Associated Press/GW
Solar panels

olar companies are struggling to deal with the dirtier side of renewable energy technology.

As federal perks have boosted solar panel production, the industry needs to dispose of millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water. The waste is shipped to disposal facilities hundreds or thousands of miles away, and the fuel used to transport the waste is not factored into solar energy's carbon footprint, experts said.

As U.S. companies look to compete with Chinese manufactures, waste disposal has become an increasing issue. "We want to take the lessons learned from electronics and semiconductor industries [about pollution] and get ahead of some of these problems," said John Smirnow, vice president for trade and competitiveness at the Solar Energy Industries Association.

California regulations require that industrial plants, including solar panel manufacturers, report the amount of hazardous materials they produce -- and where it's sent. Records show there are 41 solar makers in the state. Of those, 17 companies reported waste.

Similar federal data do not exist.

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