« Hubbert's Peak Is Here | Main | Nike Things Considered »

March 01, 2005


elizabeth burton


I'm very excited to read about this huge push to make solar power a major energy source; I'm grateful for the work that you and others are doing to make this a reality.

That said, I'm wondering if you could address the following concern: are you or any other movers and shakers in the solar world giving any thought to the question of the safe handling of solar panels throughout their lifecycle (manufacturing, use, and ultimate disposal)? I'm influenced here by McDonough & Braungart's writings on cradle-to-cradle principles. My impression is that solar panels contain various toxic metals (cadmium and lead?). Do you know how long a typical solar panel is expected to be usable? Any plans for what happens to it at the end of its useful life? Any manufacturing companies planning to take them back to recover the materials (particularly the toxic ones)?
I would be unambiguously excited about the coming of solar power if I were assured that we will not continue to spread toxic metals around even as we move away from fossil fuels. Thanks for any light you can shed on this.

Denis Du Bois

Fascinating findings, Joel. I've been writing about rooftop concentrating solar lately, so your statement about rooftop space made me wonder.

Gross rooftop space might not be an issue, but how much is net available, permissible space, with owners willing to invest, incentives available to encourage it, roofing manufacturers willing to uphold warranties, and sunlight easements to prevent future shading?

Along those lines, I interviewed Brad Hines, CEO of Soliant Energy (formerly Practical Instruments) about his company's rooftop concentrating solar and its involvement in the Solar America Inititiative. It was an interesting conversation. I published the interview as a podcast:

Soliant Energy Targets Commercial Rooftops with its Concentrating Solar Platform

The comments to this entry are closed.