Towards a Just and Sustainable Solar Industry

January 2009 marked the launch of SVTC’s Clean and Just Solar Energy Campaign. As part of the campaign, SVTC released the groundbreaking report, “Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Industry.” The 2009 report documents the environmental and health hazards associated with solar panels and provides a range of actions that policy makers, solar panel manufacturers, and consumers can take to show their support for clean and just solar energy.

Solar ReportOur campaign aims to help steer the solar industry towards becoming truly sustainable. Although solar panels provide clean energy while in use, a variety of factors during the manufacturing and disposal of these panels have the potential to greatly damage the environment.

The most commonly used solar panels are silicon-based panels that share many of the same materials and manufacturing processes as semiconductors. Solar panels have the potential to create an e-waste burden if the proper infrastructure is not developed before the first wave of panels begins to come down.

Even panels that are not as common and silicon based panels, such as cadmium telluride panels or emerging thin film technologies that utilize untested nanomaterials, can pose a threat to the environment and workers during the manufacturing and recycling stage.

By building public awareness SVTC will continue to work toward a greener solar sector.

While there are many steps that the PV solar industry must take to become sustainable, we have listed below the initial steps that the industry must take to become sustainable.

  • Ensure that solar PV manufacturers are responsible for the lifecycle impacts of their products through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and takeback programs.
  • Promote high-quality “green jobs” that protect worker health and safety and provide a living wage throughout the global PV industry, starting in the U.S.
  • Reduction and eventual elimination of toxic chemicals.

SVTC needs the support of individuals, policy makers, and the solar industry so that solar power can one day become truly sustainable.