Wind farms and massive arrays of solar panels are cropping up across public and private landscapes both in the United States and abroad as users increasingly turn to “green energy” as their preferred flavor of electricity.
President Joe Biden, in fact, has directed the Interior Department to identify suitable places to host 20 gigawatts of new energy from sun, wind or geothermal resources by 2024 as part of a sweeping effort to move away from a carbon-based economy and electrical grid. But how green is green?
Although countries are feverishly looking to install wind and solar farms to wean themselves off carbon-based, or so-called “dirty” energy, few countries, operators and the industry itself have yet to fully tackle the long-term consequences of how to dispose of these systems, which have their own environmental hazards like toxic metals, oil, fiberglass and other material.
Solar arrays have a life cycle of about 30 years, but the rapid adoption of solar in the United States and elsewhere has the problem of disposal creeping up in the rearview mirror — faster rather than later.
Green waste growth
In 2019, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the United States surpassed 2 million solar installations, just three years after it hit the milestone of 1 million installations.
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