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China delivers CHEAP solar panel prices for consumers, yet expensive waste consequences for the environment.

China’s low-cost solar panels vs. silicon tetrachloride environmental WASTE dumping.

Want a bargain on your solar panels?  Look no further than China’s price-competitive solar manufacturing process.  But be prepared to pay a hefty environmental price.  These days China’s booming industrial economy produces the lion’s share of panels, which drives down the final cost to consumers.  However, their under-regulated manufacturing processes also produce a detrimental amount of carbon output and silicon tetrachloride waste.  The result?  You’ve just scored a screamin deal on panels, while condoning hazardous carbon emissions and costly environmental waste practices.  Here are some facts to consider before you purchase your solar panels from China:

CHINA’S CARBON EMISSIONS STILL TOO HIGH: China is not on par with America’s or Europe’s commitment to lower carbon emission from manufacturing processes, but it’s showing earnest attempts in that direction, as taken from the Copenhagen Summit. However, China’s reformation will take time to catch up with the largely regulated manufacturing standards in developed industrial worlds.

CHINA’S SILICON TETRACHLORIDE WASTE PROBLEM: Irresponsible silicon tetrachloride waste dumping has been an environmental, as well as, a health threat to surrounding villages of China.  This unchecked practice renders swaths of land into toxic fields; nothing can grow; the air and water quality to surrounding neighborhoods are severely compromised.

CHINA’S UNMET PROMISE OF SILICON WASTE RECYCLING: Silicon tetrachloride is a by-product of poly-silicon manufacturing.  Utilization of silicon tetrachloride can be converted into trichlorosilane which can be used to produce raw materials for poly-silicon.  It can also be made into fumed colloidal silica dispersion, ethyl silicate and silicone products that the polysilicon market needs, thus realizing the recycling of resources throughout the entire industrial chain.  But China lacks a complete silicon industrial chain, unlike Germany’s Wacker Company or the Untied States Siemens Company, which is a comprehensive and totally enclosed cyclic recycling production.  Recapturing this silicon waste stream is a viable and emerging market, though it’s expensive to implement and operate; not at all immune to its own high energy output demand.

So are we chasing our environmental aspirations with tunnel vision… squishing jello?  Or is there truly a sustainable solution in sight; a price savvy deal, where the cost to manufacture, conserve and recycle will be commensurate with the reward to safely deliver our planet’s energy needs without destructive consequences?  Let your moral compass be your guide.

 

Article by Jennifer Coleman of Sun Source Solar Brokers, a solar brokerage and energy consulting business serving Sonoma Marin and Napa counties, including the San Francisco Bay Area.

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