First the bad news
Solar-panel manufacturers dumping toxic waste in China Solar panels may look bright and shiny, but they have a dark underbelly: production of polysilicon for panels gives off a highly toxic byproduct called silicon tetrachloride. In China, where factories are rushing to alleviate a polysilicon shortage that’s cramping the global solar-panel industry, the bubbly white liquid is often just dumped in nearby villages. “The land where you dump or bury [silicon tetrachloride] will be infertile. No grass or trees will grow in the place,” says a material-sciences expert at Hebei Industrial University. “It is poisonous, it is polluting. Human beings can never touch it.” While silicon tetrachloride can be recycled — with significant investment cost, time, and energy consumption — many Chinese factories are cutting corners, and environmental agencies seem to largely be looking the other way.source: The Washington Post
Now the good news
Startup company makes thin-film solar cells via new process
Solar company Konarka has announced that it successfully developed a new process to manufacture solar cells that could lead to a range of new solar-powered products and applications. The solar cells are made without silicon and are manufactured into a thin, light film via an inkjet printer, which means they don’t need to be born in a clean room like traditional silicon cells. One drawback to the new cells is their efficiency: while regular silicon solar cells achieve efficiencies of up to 20 percent, the new cells are only 5 percent efficient, but Konarka says they’re likely to be less expensive and much more dynamic. They can be incorporated into plastics and come in a range of different colors, including transparent.