March 18th, 2000
Dr. Gay E. Canough, physicist.
"All we have to do is increase manufacturing of photovoltaics to over 1000 megawatts (up from 150 MW today) and the cost of installing solar electric power plants will instantly be cheaper than any other type. And because of the health costs of pollution and the costs of dealing with nuclear waste, the cost per kilowatt-hour of solar electricity is probably already lower than coal or nuclear- generated power."
"The manufacturing of photovoltaics (PV) PV is made of 1) Silicon (same stuff sand is made of) 2) steel (iron) 3) solder (lead solder is being phased out now) 4) aluminum 5) glass (crystalized sand) A solar cell is a semiconductor device (like an integrated circuit). But it is the simplest semiconductor device, a pn junction. Much PV is made of from the "waste" silicon that computer chips makers can't use. Solar cells may have to be washed at some point to get rid of flux residues from soldering. Amorphous silicon PV does not need any washing, since the interconnects are usually made without extensive soldering. Most manufacuturers that have to wash now use water. So manufacture of silicon solar cells is fairly benign to the environment. Also, manufacturing of semiconductors is now a high art due to the computer industry. Special types of PV, such as cadmium-telluride, could have hazardous waste. Any PV factory that uses these heavier elements must take extra precautions that they don't get into the environment. For example, cadmium is known to be a health hazard. And yes, you could power the PV factory with PV. You can probably find more information on this subject at www.nrel.gov.