Socio-economic and environmental impacts of silicon based photovoltaic (PV) technologies
Jadhav, Nilesh Y.
Date of Issue2013
2012 PV Asia Pacific Conference
Energy Research Institute
Solar photovoltaic (PV) system provides significant social and environmental benefits in comparison to the conventional energy sources, thus contributing to sustainable development. The worldwide PV market installations reached a very high growth in 2011 (27.4 GW). These are encouraging news since electricity generation from PV produces no greenhouse gas emissions and as such provides a clean alternative to fossil fuels, contributes to job creation and economic prosperity even in less developed areas. However, manufacturing PV modules can have consequences for workers and on the environment throughout their life cycle (from raw material extraction and procurement, to manufacturing, disposal, and/or recycling). Large scale PV deployment also needs land that may not be available, or in competition with other land uses. These potential problems seem to be strong barriers for a further dissemination of PV technologies. Conventional PV (silicon based) manufacturing processes have roots in the electronics industry, many of the chemicals found in e-waste are also found in solar PV, including lead, brominated flame retardants, cadmium, and chromium. The manufacturing of solar cells involves several toxic, flammable and explosive chemicals. Many of those components suppose a health hazard to workers involved in manufacturing of solar cells. Solar panels are often in competition with agriculture and can cause soil erosion. The disposal of electronic products is becoming an escalating environmental and health problem in many countries. Recycling of PV panel is currently not economically viable because waste volumes generated are too small; significant volumes of end-of-life photovoltaic panels will begin to appear in 2025 or 2030. An overview of social and environmental impacts of PV technologies is presented in this paper along with potential benefits and pitfalls.
© 2013 The Authors (Published by Elsevier Ltd.). This paper was published in Energy Procedia and is made available as an electronic reprint (preprint) with permission of The Authors (Published by Elsevier Ltd.). The paper can be found at the following official DOI: [http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.egypro.2013.05.073]. One print or electronic copy may be made for personal use only. Systematic or multiple reproduction, distribution to multiple locations via electronic or other means, duplication of any material in this paper for a fee or for commercial purposes, or modification of the content of the paper is prohibited and is subject to penalties under law.