The Life Cycle of Photovoltaics (PV)

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This is a project of SVTC’s just and sustainable PV campaign. It documents the environmental, health, and safety issues related to the life cycle of PV, and opportunities to ensure that PV is deployed in a just and sustainable way.

Why it is important the PV industry succeeds

Clean energy from photovoltaics (PV) will be essential to a just and sustainable energy future. The dire consequences of climate change to vulnerable peoples and species around the world make a successful PV industry an imperative. Impacts from conventional energy sources extend beyond greenhouse gas emissions.

Natural gas extraction is causing water pollution, particularly with fracking practices. Burning coal is connected to the destructive practice of mountaintop removal and leaves piles of toxic waste near coal plants. Uranium mining for nuclear power can lead to environmental injustices, and the unforgiving impact of nuclear contamination poses risks to future generations. Hydroelectric power has displaced millions of people in developing countries, and considerably impacts many fish species. Oil production can have tragic consequences as seen with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and impacts to the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Taken as a whole, the old energy economy has considerable social and environmental impacts that require human civilization move to cleaner sources of energy.

Yet, there are also impacts associated with the new clean energy economy that should be identified before it is too late. The goal of the SVTC campaign is to raise awareness about the important environmental and social aspects of the PV life cycle to ensure that PV deployment will be just and sustainable. Several high profile accidents and poor manufacturing practices also show that good environmental performance is linked to financial performance. Everyone benefits from a just and sustainable PV industry.

At SVTC we realize that translating technical information into an easy to understand format is challenging. With our PV Lifecycle website and our Solar Scorecard, we hope to help everyone—especially workers, consumers, and those living near solar facilities—to have a better understanding of solar energy’s potential environmental, health and safety risks and to choose solar companies that are transparent about their business practices and take full responsibility for the lifecycle of their products.

We welcome your suggestions on how to improve the website SVTC@SVTC.org

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