The solar industry experienced its highest sale and production rates in 2020. As manufacturers produce more panels, environmentalists evaluate the sustainability of their material use and development practices. They also work on expanding society’s access to emission-less energy by increasing its efficiency.
Solar manufacturers can expand their products’ uses by creating reliable and long-lasting panels. Before evaluating material and technological advances, we must assess the industry’s challenges that drive change.
PV Panel Limitations
Most rooftop solar panels are photovoltaic (PV). Their material use limits their efficiency rates, causing expansion challenges. PV panels convert sunlight into electricity at a 15%-22% production rate.
PV panels also have recyclability limitations caused by their material composition. Environmental engineers and scientists discovered methods of extracting some portions for reuse while the remaining parts end up in landfills. They contain toxic elements like lead that pollute the surface when sitting in a waste facility over time.
Solar panels also last between 25 and 30 years on average. Their efficiency rates decrease by nearly 0.8% annually, causing production limitations over the years. Panel manufacturers could improve their sustainability by using efficiency enhancing materials, like cadmium telluride (CdTe).
Another liability challenge in the industry is material sourcing. Supply chains are slowing their production of polysilicon used in conventional panels. Engineers created versions using cadmium telluride to replace scarce resources.
Cadmium Telluride Enters the Playing Field
CdTe effectively supports solar panel production, increasing the technology’s stability and efficiency. With material dropping, CdTe can achieve a 30% sunlight-to-electricity conversion rate. Creating more emission-less electricity supports a green future with fewer environmental impacts.
The panels are also more efficient during summer heatwaves, which are increasing as a climate change effect. Conventional PV devices have lower production rates when they experience overheating. CdTe can successfully improve the future of renewable energy.
The technology does create ecological limitations because of its toxicity levels. Researchers evaluated CdTe exposure effects on lab rats from inhalation and ingestion. They found moderate ingestion levels caused weight loss, compromising the animals’ health.
During moderate inhalation exposure, the rats lost weight and developed lung inflammation and fibrosis. High levels caused death, creating general concern around the safety of the materials used in panels.
Environmentalists are exploring the effects of CdTe on manufacturers’ and installation professionals’ well-being. Raw exposure is toxic, and some individuals think there are safe handling methods that can decrease concern. Professionals believe adequate regulations and management practices can limit the environmental impacts of the material.
The Difference Between Cadmium and Cadmium Telluride
It is essential to remember cadmium and cadmium telluride are different materials. CdTe is less toxic, and researchers believe it is safe for manufacturing uses. It is challenging to release cadmium from CdTe because of its bind.
Professionals secure CdTe between sheets of ethyl vinyl acetate, protecting the environment and workers from potential interactions with pure cadmium. Product inspections and material handling regulations can increase a worker’s safety when using the new panel technology. The CdTe panels are essential for the solar industry’s growth, helping society conserve the global ecosystem and natural resources.
Enhancing the Renewable Energy Industry
Using CdTe for emission-less energy production can expand development, limiting society’s reliance on fossil fuels. It is essential to decrease air pollution and prevent further climate change effects. The combustion of fossil fuels releases emissions into the environment and degrades the local air quality.
America can protect its citizens from the adverse effects of poor air quality and overheating when using 100% renewable energy. It can also achieve its carbon-neutrality goal set by the Biden administration. Additionally, expanding the solar industry with CdTe creates more green employment opportunities, increasing job security.
The Future of Green Energy
The Biden administration plans on establishing a clean electric grid backed by renewable energy. We can expect the industry to use CdTe and other advancements, creating enough emission-less electricity to support national demands. Clean energy may also back a large portion of America’s economy in the future, creating more jobs and manufacturing opportunities over time.
About the author: Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co.