The Washington Post ran a story on Sunday reminding that solar is not perfectly clean. Of course, no energy source is, and every energy source is going to flunk the environmental test, if a passing grade requires perfect cleanliness and safety.
The real environmental question is, how does solar compare to alternative ways of making power? And that is the question that should be asked and answered for all energy sources.
The Washington Post piece focuses on the toxic sludge and contaminated water generated by the large and rising amount of solar panels now being manufactured in California. The solar boom creates more waste.
An academic who specializes in life cycle emission accounting is quoted in the above piece saying that a solar panel would have to operate one to three months to pay off the emissions associated with transporting the solar manufacturing wastes to dumps.
While solar often has the lowest environmental footprint of any energy source, the search for the energy Holy Grail--the perfectly clean energy source--continues. Yet, every solar panel installed now avoids the need for that power coming from a source that likely creates more emissions or risks. Solar is not perfect, but it helps to clean and lower risks at this stage of our energy development.