Three years ago I published a column at Forbes arguing that solar panels weren’t clean but in fact produced 300 times more toxic waste than high-level nuclear waste. But in contrast to nuclear waste, which is safely stored and never hurts anyone, solar panel waste risks exposing poor trash-pickers in sub-Saharan Africa. The reason was because it was so much cheaper to make new solar panels from raw materials than to recycle them, and would remain that way, given labor and energy costs.
My reporting was near-universally denounced. The most influential financial analyst of the solar industry called my article, “a fine example of ‘prove RE [renewable energy] is terrible by linking lots of reports which don’t actually support your point but do show that the RE industry in the West considers and documents its limited impacts extremely thoroughly.’” An energy analyst who is both pro-nuclear and pro-solar analyst agreed with her, saying “I looked into this waste issue in the past and concur with [her].”
The GuardianUG -3.6% said solar panel waste was a “somewhat ironic concern from [me], a proponent of nuclear power, which has a rather bigger toxic waste problem” adding that “broken panels… are relatively rare except perhaps in the wake of a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake.”