Solar panel projects raise concerns about environmental problems

VietNamNet Bridge - Solar power is considered a type of clean energy, but scientists are still arguing about how clean it is.


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The return to Vietnam by US-based First Solar and the arrival of investors from China is expected to help develop the solar panel industry in Vietnam.

Chinese enterprises now provide more than two-thirds of the solar cells to the global market. The popularity of Chinese-made solar panels was one of the major reasons that  the price of the products dropped sharply by 80 percent in 2008-2013.

Analysts, noting that many Chinese solar panel manufacturers are making investments in Vietnam, said the investors want to take full advantage of preferential tariffs when exporting products to the US and Europe. 

However, the US has recently informed WTO (World Trade Organzation) that it may impose tariffs on solar panels imported from other countries because it believes that Chinese companies are setting up production bases in third countries from which they export products to the US.

The return to Vietnam by US-based First Solar and the arrival of investors from China is expected to help develop the solar panel industry in Vietnam.

The demand for solar panels globally has been increasing since 2016, while the production and installation costs are on the decrease. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) believes that solar panels will be an alternative for fossil energy.

According to IRENA, the price of solar panels may drop by up to 59 percent within 10 years. The proportion of electricity to be produced from solar energy will increase from 2 percent to 13 percent by 2030.

Manufacturing solar panels became more attractive after the Prime Minister decided that solar power investors can sell electricity to the Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) at 9.35 cent per kwh.

Vietnam is one of the countries with the highest number of hours of sunshine on the world’s solar radiation map.

However, environmentalists have raised concern that the production of solar panels would cause environmental problems because it takes a lot of energy to produce a solar panel.

They cited a report as saying that the high temperature of 1,414 oC is needed to melt and refine silicon (panels need silicon to absorb energy from sunlight). Therefore, when a solar panel is produced, it bears a so-called ‘carbon debt’.

They also warned that a panel made in China creates a volume of emission twice as much as a panel made in Europe. Therefore, they believe that management agencies need to set up technological requirements on Chinese-invested projects.


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Mai Chi

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