Wednesday, 21 September 2011

How "Green" are your PV Panels?

I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty virtuous about having “Green technology” on my roof. Of course I’m aware that the manufacturing process involves energy usage and toxic chemicals, but once the products have been made there are zero emissions.

Perhaps I’m feeling slightly smug about my German Schuco panels which are manufactured within the EU with tighter environmental controls as apposed to those manufactured in the world’s workshop, China.

China's ambition to build a harmonious clean-tech economy lost some of its sheen on Sunday after a violent confrontation over pollution from a solar panel factory.

Picture: Daily Telegraph

Riot police broke up a four-day protest by several hundred villagers in Haining, Zhejiang province, who overturned cars and stormed the compound of a photovoltaic manufacturer that is accused of releasing toxins into a local river.
The demonstrators complained of police brutality and efforts to silence their voices in the latest in a rash of rallies and protests over environmental concerns in China.

The target on this occasion was Jinko Solar Holding, a fast-growing company listed on the New York stock exchange that produces ingots, wafers, cells and modules. Although solar is seen as clean energy in terms of carbon emissions, the production of many components is energy intensive and polluting. Toxic discharges from the factory killed large numbers of fish and regulators have previously ordered the company to suspend operations, according to the domestic media.

Locals are frustrated their complaints have not been heard. On Thursday, 500 people burst into the factory compound. They were dispersed, but continued their protests by camping outside. Riot police dispersed the gathering on Sunday and sealed off the site. Witnesses complained to reporters that the security forces had used heavy-handed tactics. Villagers said they wanted the factory to move because they were worried about the impact of its discharges into the river and air on the health of their children.

The clash highlights the difficulty that China faces as it tries to clean up its environment, reduce its reliance on coal and secure "clean tech" export business. The country is the world's biggest manufacturer of solar panels with about 70% of the global market, but overseas rivals say this dominant position has been achieved through unfair subsidies, low wages and lax environmental regulation.

Low price, high specification market leading products. At what cost?


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