Solar panels are one of the greenest and least controversial types of renewable power generation technology. Some neighborhoods don't like how they look on roofs of houses, but there are no concerns about harming wildlife, as with wind turbines or tidal power systems. And the technology to make them is continuing to improve.
But not all solar panels are created equally. Solar panels are energy intensive to produce, and potentially harmful materials such as cadmium and lead are sometimes used in their production. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition has begun to assemble a 'Solar Scorecard' that evaluates solar panel manufacturers.
Because the Scorecard is based on company self-reporting, presently there are only ten PV module manufacturers and one solar cell manufacturer with scores listed. Four compaies also have a gold star, indicating that the company "has a takeback program and has policies against exporting waste and using prison labor to dismantle end-of-life panels."
Scoring is based on a 100-point scale, with four major categories: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Takeback, which deals with end-of-life and recycling for the panels; Supply Chain Monitoring and Green Jobs, which looks at employee exposure to toxic materials among other issues; Chemical Use and Lifecycle Analysis, which looks at hazardous material use; and Disclosure, which considers a company's transparency about these issues. The survey was originally sent to 227 [*] solar PV companies in October 2009 and the survey dealine was extended to late January 2010. Hopefully more companies will respond and the listing can be kept current in coming years, providing consumers with more information about the panels they are considering.
link: Solar Scorecard
An extended version of this article is available on GreenovationTV.
* Ed. note: earlier typo said 27 solar PV companies
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