While the sun provides a tremendous resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity, there are potential environmental impacts associated with solar power. Hazardous materials, of varying quantity, are used in the manufacturing process for the two broad categories of solar technologies; photovoltaic solar panels or concentrating solar thermal plants.
In terms of photovoltaic solar panels, each specific fabrication method holds the potential for water pollution. If solar cells are soldered together with lead solder and then rinsed, the rinse water could contain lead. Sulfur, a byproduct of cleaning the equipment used to produce silicon solar cells, can make its way into wastewater. Cadmium, used to manufacture and clean some thin-film solar panels, can also enter into wastewater.
Online monitors or offline analyzers can be used in solar panel manufacturing facilities to obtain real-time data on trace metal contaminants in rinse water and wastewater effluent; ensuring regulatory compliance and serving to protect the environment from hazardous metals.