Letter: Solar energy not as 'green' as proponents contend

March 6, 2013 

Thanks for the article about the toxic waste streams from solar power ("Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes," Page C4, Feb. 17 Herald). I have been curious about that issue for years. A fleeting moment of thought about what kind of nasty stuff is in solar photovoltaics should give pause for concern.

However, during the last few decades, every time I asked anybody what the photovoltaic production process waste steams were, all I ever got was a blank stare. Apparently one can be a zealous supporter of some energy options without having bothered to think through the issues very much.

A few years ago, I did come across a researcher at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland who cited an International Energy Agency research paper concluding that power generation with solar photovoltaics produced the same amount of toxic waste as is produced by nuclear power. Oh by the way, the half-life of the photovoltaic toxic wastes is, well, forever (it does not radioactively decay away).

Unfortunately most folks will not notice the article, leaving us stuck with the unquestioned presupposition that solar power is "green." Energy options that really should be labeled "politically correct" somehow continue to get called "green." Sound familiar?

DAN JORDHEIM, West Richland

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