Minnesota Department of Transportation Has 25 Year Agreement to Buy Solar Because Panels Don’t Last Much Longer Than That
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) recently released it’s 2019 Sustainability Report. In the report, details how the government agency has signed two 25-year agreements to buy electricity from community solar installations (CSI) throughout Minnesota. Why only 25 years? Because unlike coal, natural gas, or nuclear power plants which can run for 60 to 80 years, solar panels don’t last much longer than 25 years.
While sunlight is a renewable resource, solar panels are not. In fact, most solar panels are not even recyclable because it costs more to recycle them than the materials are worth. As a result, solar panels become electronic waste, and either end up in landfills in the United States, or they are shipped to developing countries for disposal.
Some of the solar waste is hazardous.
According to a study in the academic journal Energy Strategy Reviews, the disposal of solar panels will become a pertinent environmental issue in the next decades because solar panels contain lead, cadmium, and many other hazardous chemicals that cannot be removed if the entire panel is cracked. This is why the study warns that solar panels could become a form of hazardous waste when their useful life is over and may harm the environment if they are not recovered or disposed of properly.
Despite the potential for harmful environmental contamination, the study notes that few places have created a regulations to make sure that old solar panels aren’t harming the environment. Even California, a leading state for solar panels, has no plan for dealing with the waste from expired solar panels.
In Europe, the only area that requires manufacturers of solar panels to collect and dump solar waste, panels were disposed of on regular waste disposal sites, but this method is not advisable because the modules can degrade, and harmful chemicals can leach into the ground causing drinking water contamination, according to the study authors.
MNDOT considers solar to be a sustainable source of energy, but they don’t seem to want to acknowledge the fact that solar panels don’t last as long as traditional power plants, and the panels are also a potential source of environmental contamination. The electricity produced by these installations is also much more expensive than electricity generated from Minnesota’s coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants, and as a result, Minnesota families and businesses are forced to pay more for their energy.
If MNDOT truly wants to be sustainable, they should be lobbying the legislature to legalize new nuclear power plants and allow large hydroelectric power stations to count as “renewable” under state law. Unlike solar panels, these power plants can generate clean, reliable electricity for 80 years at a time. Minnesotans would reap the highest environmental return on investment from these technologies, not by wasting money on disposable solar power plants.