Quartz sand has to be mined for silicon cells. The process of treating these materials and assembling modules out of solar cells involves emissions of heavy metals and CO2. The European “Crystal Clear” Energy Commission states that one square meter of solar cells can be equivalent to up to 314 kg of CO2 emissions in the production process.
Nitrogen triflouride (NF3) is used widely in the production of computer chips, LCDs, and thin-film photovoltaics. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography recently discovered that NF3 is 17,000 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Using NF3 causes a build-up of a glassy film on the insides of manufacturing chambers, and in order to clean this film out, a chemical called hexaflourethane (C2F6) is used. C2F6 is 12,000 times stronger than CO2 as a greenhouse gas, and it is estimated that 60% of the amount used in cleaning is released into the atmosphere.
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