Today’s Australian Financial Review features a long section on how Australia’s energy sector may respond to the carbon price and the continuation of the renewable energy target. It is predicated on the standard assumption of a three way battle between wind, solar and gas. I like to call this basic strategy “failure”, because it almost guarantees locking in a whole lot of unabated gas for the next 50 years or so, leaving our emissions pegged at levels that are a far cry from zero.

The same issue carried this headline “Chinese dirty on solar plant pollution”. Turns out a solar manufacturing plant in China is so filthy, the toxic discharges are resulting in both nasty air pollution, and killing the fish in the local river. The locals are so fed up they stormed the plant, and the police had to disperse them. Here’s a link to the Forbes report. Yes, clean solar panels require plenty of nasties to make them. Those nasties have no half life, by the way. They stay nasty. If it’s not adequately regulated, it can be as dangerous and harmful as any other industry.

So what freaking gives? In the same two week period, 100-odd people were incinerated when a gasoline pipeline caught fire in Kenya, disempowered villagers stormed a solar  factory for crying out loud, but we hear the most about an incinerator explosion because it happens to incinerate low level radioactive waste.  If a nuclear facility was being stormed by villagers and killing fish because it was so lax in it’s standards, we …

Hang on. Deep breath. I think I need to take care that DSA does not turn into the blog that focusses on nuclear media hypocrisy. Depleted Cranium already does it (and he’s funnier than me).

I’ll try to keep it positive from now on. Promise. Sometimes it just gets a bit too much.


  1. PV enthusiasts keep telling us the capital cost is now down to $1 per watt though see if you can get it for that price. I paid $10/w installed for mine back in 2005. That’s without batteries for overnight electricity. It seems whatever PV cost reduction has occurred is in large part due to the Chinese realising they could sell to heavily subsidised Westerners. China uses all the coal and lax productions methods they want because few are looking that closely. Dead fish and riots in China, green chic in the West.

  2. Not to down play what you write, but in China, you don’t have to look hard to find extremely dirty and poorly planned industry of any type. Having a factory that manufactures solar panels being dirty is probably any obvious irony, I agree.

    However, I’ve been to the newest Suntech facility in China and despite what people expect, it would surpass even the tightest regulations imagined in hippie California or Germany. It is a super clean, self-contained robotic factory that processes all the waste onsite.

    Environmental control can be very local and extremely corrupt in China as Apple and many others have discovered.

    1. Yes, I totally agree. China truly can be the example, no matter what story you want to tell, they do everything in every possible way!!! My point was certainly one of irony and hypocrisy in reporting, not that solar manufacturing is evil. I would like to see media and people in general take a stand against pollution and crap regulation wherever it is found, rather than be so obviously discriminatory depending on the technology. We’ll never know, but might this plant have done more environmental and human health harm than Fukushima? Sounds possible.

      The Suntech factory must have been amazing, fortunate you! (I don’t much believe in “lucky” as a concept).

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