While it is a fact that solar technology is a clean and renewable energy, producers in Canada have come under fire from Ecowatch Groups. Citing environmental damage caused by mining the metals used to produce solar panels, Environment Canada’s latest reports have created a bit of an ecological puzzle. Compounding Environment Canada’s reports, Simon Fraser University’s studies have further highlighted the need for environmentally responsible mining when extracting the metals needed to produce solar panels.
In a statement issued by Clean Energy Canada, Dan Woynillowicz said that Canada mines fourteen of the nineteen metals and minerals needed to be used when manufacturing a solar panel locally. He said responsible mining is a must as demand for renewable energy grows not only locally in Canada but across the globe as the environmental impact of keeping up with demand could be devastating for Canada’s ecology. And the demand for solar energy is indeed growing, with solar photovoltaic systems still expected to be one of the cheapest sources of power around.
Solar Power on the Rise
In 2016, the SFU reported a groundbreaking year in the volume of solar power produced. Three years later, this number has almost tripled with new installations coming on line daily. What these reports outline is that the falling costs of solar panels now means solar power is the number one source of renewable energy worldwide. Europe alone installed 98.9 Gigawatts of new capacity late in 2017 but to date, China maintains their number one rank as the global leader in solar energy installations. Coming in a close second is the United States who, according to statistics provided, have not only improved on their green footprint but have made a meaningful impact on combating unemployment through solar jobs. While this all sounds fantastic for environmental impact, the reality may be far more sinister for Canada.
Making the Change
While most ecological organisations are not against mining practices as a whole in Canada, they are putting pressure on mining companies to ensure that they are producing the materials needed in the right way. And as most of us know, mining has come a long way with sustainable low impact options available to the industry. Unfortunately, these come with a high bill and with Canada’s mining laws and regulations being lax at best, big companies are just not implementing the more environmentally safe options. So what does this mean for Canada’s booming solar power producing industry?
Jamie Kneen of Mining Watch Canada believes that the risk can be mitigated if big mining corporations take the time to include the community in their development plans. By simply listening to community concerns and implementing technical fixes to reduce the impact of mining on the environment a huge amount of the negative impact will be negated without waiting for government agencies to get involved.
The question still remains, though. Does Canada actually have the ability to capitalise on solar panel growth without continuing to negatively impact its environment?