Do we really want solar panels to be manufactured in the United States?

Samsung will begin building washing machines in its new plant in Newberry, SC. LG is putting a plant in Tennessee to manufacture its washing machines. Good timing given the tariffs on imported washing machines that are being imposed, something that just might help drive foreign manufacturers to make more products in the United States for this market.

Solar panel
Image courtesy Golo/flickr.

A similar tariff has been placed on foreign-made solar panels, which are subject to duties as high as 30%. One report in Bloomberg noted that some 80% of all solar panels are imported. First Solar, headquartered in Tempe, AZ, is the only large-scale U.S. solar panel manufacturer; however, its technology is geared toward utility-scale projects, not residential rooftop use.

If the goal of these tariffs is to drive manufacturing back to the United States, then we have to ask the question: Do we really want solar panels to be manufactured in the United States?

While green energy is promoted as “clean” energy, that isn’t really the case with solar panel manufacturing. Solar energy may be a way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and cut CO2, but those who promote this “green” energy do not go into details about the manufacturing process or the materials used to make solar panel components.

A number of years ago when solar energy became a serious discussion, I recall reading an article explaining why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would not approve domestic manufacturing of solar panels: The toxicity involved is too harmful to the environment. Even if the EPA were to approve solar panel manufacturing, the regulatory approval process for siting a solar manufacturing plant could take years. China and other Southeast Asia countries were the only option for large-scale production of solar panels.

Some of the toxic materials used in the manufacture of solar panels are cadmium telluride, gallium arsenide, copper indium selenide and silicon tetrachloride, a byproduct of producing crystalline silicon, rated as “highly toxic” in the April 25, 2017, issue of Sciencing. The low price of solar panels made in China “relied on China’s notoriously poor environmental protections and the dangerous working conditions in its mines and factories,” noted a Sept. 22, 2014, blog post, "The True Cost of Chinese Solar Panels," on the Alliance for American Manufacturing website.

Comments (1)

Please log in or to post comments.
  • Oldest First
  • Newest First
Loading Comments...