What price solar?

Given its plentiful sunshine, it's a no-brainer that Silicon Valley is investing heavily in solar products, not just in terms of consumer and commercial installations but in manufacturing facilities that hope to cash in on the adoption of solar photovoltaic technology.But the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, despite advocating the use of solar and other alternative energies, is cautioning the industry to pay more attention to just how sustainable solar technology really is.

Given its plentiful sunshine, it's a no-brainer that Silicon Valley is investing heavily in solar products, not just in terms of consumer and commercial installations but in manufacturing facilities that hope to cash in on the adoption of solar photovoltaic technology.

But the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, despite advocating the use of solar and other alternative energies, is cautioning the industry to pay more attention to just how sustainable solar technology really is. That's because very little attention has been paid, so far, to what sorts of materials are being use in panels or to how they might be disposed of at the end of their useful life, says Sheila Davis, executive director of the coalition. "We do want to see solar expand, but in the process we want to make sure it doesn't fall victim to past practices that are unsustainable," she says.

One challenge, she says, is that there are few regulations motivating solar manufacturers on the safety or sustainability front. At least so far.

The coalition has released a report with recommendations for the solar community, with the hope that it can stimulate some progress. It has passed the report, Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Industry," along to the Department of Energy.

Recommendations in the report include: - The adoption of practices focused on reducing and eliminating toxic materials in solar technology - Regulations and policies that ensure photovoltaic manufacturers pay attention to the total lifecycle of their products - Thorough testing of new and emerging materials - An expansion of recycling programs And - Efforts to promote community health and safety

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