Making solar panels with cleaner, greener technology

February 23, 2011

Mention solar energy, and most people think "squeaky clean, pollution-free." The reality of making solar panels with existing technology, however, is much different, involving use of potentially toxic substances and lots of energy. That could change, according to an article in the current edition of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

In the article, C&EN Associate Editor Sarah Everts describes the beginning of a scientific effort to manufacture in a way that better fits the public perception. Current silicon-based solar panels, which represent about 80 percent of the global market, are energy-intensive and rely on materials that pose potential health and environmental risks. To be "green," manufacturers must adopt more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and plan for the safe end-of-service-life disposal of the panels, the article notes.

Solar panel manufacturers are already starting to make changes. Some are setting up programs that will collect and recycle panels after their 20-25 year lifespan. Many solar companies are trying to reduce the amount of energy required to produce the panels, while others are trying to change the production process in order to replace toxic materials with more eco-friendly ones. At the same time, manufacturers are faced with the challenge of developing more efficient solar cells, which could require the use of more energy-intensive processes and more materials.

"Resolving these challenges — perhaps with new manufacturing processes altogether — will ensure that photovoltaics [solar panels] don't just produce renewable but are themselves renewably produced," the article states.

Explore further: Honda to Mass Produce Next-Generation Thin Film Solar Cell

More information: "Making Solar Panels Greener", This story is available at

Related Stories

Honda to Mass Produce Next-Generation Thin Film Solar Cell

December 19, 2005

Honda announced its plan to begin mass production in 2007, of an independently developed thin film solar cell composed of non-silicon compound materials, which requires 50% less energy, and thus generate 50% less CO2, during ...

Californians bask in solar energy

January 4, 2007

Soaring energy costs, environmental consciousness and financial incentives have combined to make solar panels part of the California housing landscape.

Printable solar cells within reach?

September 30, 2010

Victorian researchers have welcomed a $5 million grant from the State Government to help commercialise their revolutionary technology that uses printable light-sensitive ink to convert sunlight into energy, potentially opening ...

Engineers give solar power a boost

January 11, 2011

The growing popularity of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems across the United States has made it more important to maximize their power input. That's why UC San Diego environmental engineering professor Jan Kleissl is working ...

Recommended for you

The ethics of robot love

November 25, 2015

There was to have been a conference in Malaysia last week called Love and Sex with Robots but it was cancelled. Malaysian police branded it "illegal" and "ridiculous". "There is nothing scientific about sex with robots," ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Feb 24, 2011
well - thats a non story

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.