The sun is a great source of renewable energy. But how we harness that energy has its problems.
Solar is the fastest growing energy sector in the United States — mostly because it’s both accessible, and pretty damn cheap.
About half of the world’s polysilicon comes from the Xinjiang region in China, per The Wall Street Journal. But Xinjiang is also the region where the Chinese government has been accused of perpetrating a genocide against ethnic minorities, mainly the Uighur Muslims.
Some fear that materials acquired from Xinjiang “could have links to forced labor,” per the Journal. “And lack of unrestricted access to Xinjiang means it is difficult to ensure suppliers aren’t somehow linked to human-rights abuses.”
But it can’t be left up to individual choice. Some places, like the European Union, require producers to recycle their solar panels. In the U.S., there are no recycling mandates, and because recycling is more expensive than just trashing dead parts, only about 10% of material gets recycled.
That needs to change.