If you thought solar panels were environmentally friendly, you might need to think again.
Most solar panels are imported into the U.S., making them cheaper. However, critics claim their production in other countries, such as China, is not helping the environment.
“Most of [the panels] are produced with energy from carbon-dioxide-belching, coal-burning plants in China,” a Wall Street Journal report said in July. China does not comply with international free-market standards and uses slave labor for its production.
In recent years, the development of the solar energy industry has increased markedly. In the United States, especially with the policies that the Biden administration is trying to impose to comply with the “green agenda,” a kind of race seems to have begun to replace traditional energies with alternative energies such as solar energy.
Although powerful sectors linked to the left defend and promote this type of policies, many experts cast doubts and warn about the highly negative effects of solar panels.
How most solar panels are manufactured may place them squarely in the category of “substantial pollutants,” says Matthew Dalton, Paris correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and author of the article “Behind the Rise of U.S. Solar Power, a Mountain of Chinese Coal.”
“Panels made in China generate roughly twice as much carbon dioxide as the equivalent panel made in Europe,” Dalton asserts, making an almost hypothetical comparison given that European and U.S. panel makers have been all but decimated by Chinese competition.
According to the WSJ article, the largest Chinese solar panel manufacturers are companies most consumers have never heard of, completely disassociating their processes from the clean, polished image portrayed by large solar installers such as Sunrun, Momentum Solar, or Trinity Solar.
Dalton writes that “the solar industry’s reliance on Chinese coal … as manufacturers rapidly scale up production of solar panels to meet demand … would make the solar industry one of the world’s most prolific polluters.”
Competition problems with solar panels imported from China
The low production costs in the Chinese communist regime and the development of near-monopolistic companies in solar panels production have made it virtually impossible to produce the panels locally in a competitive manner.
For this reason, some mechanisms have been created, although not very effective, to limit the importation of these panels. Mainly, a series of tariffs have been established under anti-dumping regulations, which seek to discourage imports from China.
In August 2021, American Solar Manufacturers Against Chinese Theatre (A-SMACC) petitioned the Commerce Department to investigate “unfairly traded” imports from Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam of solar cells and modules, Fox Business reported.
“While Chinese companies now almost exclusively export to the United States from Southeast Asia, the vast majority of manufacturing, research and development, and capital investment remain in China,” the A-SMACC argues.
In a letter of response the from Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), they state that tariffs would decimate the solar industry.
“The massive duties called for in these petitions, ranging from 50% to as high as 250%, are already having an adverse impact on the U.S. solar industry and, if implemented, would devastate the industry and each of our individual companies,” the letter said.
The Commerce Department is soon decide whether to conduct a trade investigation into solar cells and modules from those countries.
Slave labor production of solar panels
Another serious problem is the allegation that the low cost of Chinese solar panel production is primarily made possible by slave labor.
A report published in June 2021 by British researchers at Sheffield Hallam University claims that global solar panel production is being driven by the forced labor of Uighur Muslims, political prisoners, religious prisoners, and other ethnic minorities by the Chinese Communist regime in Xinjiang province, China.
The research further suggests that the Chinese regime has between 71% and 97% of the world’s capacity for various solar panel components. Xinjiang alone produces nearly half of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon.