Sunflowers and Solar Panels

Since we sent out over 200 surveys to solar companies in October, I had to visit several hundred solar websites to get companies’ addresses. Some sites were bare-bones and for others, cost was probably not an issue.

On thing I noticed while dredging through hundreds of sites was sunflowers. Beautiful sunflowers fully blossomed in the foreground and a shiny black solar panel in the background. Maybe it’s the contrast of black and yellow, but this image is everywhere.

The more I thought about which plant should be next to the solar panel, a very simple image came to mind – a potato. In my opinion, potatoes, while much less glamorous than sunflowers, do a far better job at capturing the true characteristics of solar panels.

So it doesn’t sound like I’m coming completely out of left field with this comparison, here’s a little info about a potato. While the root of the potato plant is edible, the plant itself is highly toxic. Once we have used up the root, we have toxic leftovers.

The same goes for solar panels. After they have been “used” up, that is to say the panels have reached the end of their useful life, we are left with something that contains toxic materials.

Although it’s far from being a perfect comparison, it illustrates the problem that solar panel manufacturers must face. No matter how sleek the panel might look, it will not live up to the image of a benign sunflower as long as it contains toxic chemicals.

SVTC encourages companies to try to become the image of the sunflower. Remove the toxic substances in your panel that will not harm people or the environment during manufacturing or disposal.

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A very thought provoking article. In order for solar energy to be fully eco-friendly the industry needs an eco-friendly way to recycle the panels once they reach the end of their effective lives.