The Government of Bangladesh has recognized or is recognizing that electricity access qualifies as a human right. For example, (1) the Government of Bangladesh has signed technical assistant grant agreements with Asian Development Bank to provide renewable energy in rural areas with no access to grid electricity, and (2) the ministry of power, energy and mineral resources has also been implemented energy policy 2008 to meet five percent of the country’s energy demand through renewable energy by 2015 and ten percent by 2020. That is why in recent years, Solar Home Systems (SHS) have gained unprecedented acceptance by the end-users in Bangladesh. In this paper, we will see ‘what people may not know about the dirtier side of Solar Panel System in terms of full chain of solar energy system in Bangladesh. More preciously, this paper will hopefully help us to see how solar panel can be hazardous to our life in general. Additionally, this paper will also provide some recommendations that my help to sustain the solar energy market as well as improve human rights development at a sustainable rate.
What are solar (photovoltaic) panels?
Generally, solar panels are kind of active solar devices that convert the sun’s energy into electricity. We use this in reducing our dependence on polluting fossil fuels. Different raw materials like steel, aluminium, cooper, and others are used in the process of manufacturing of solar panels that somewhat releases greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2. Unfortunately, most of the people (consumers) mainly look at the finished products in terms of assessing, for example, the health and safety risks associate with solar energy. However, there is needed to look at, in my opinion, the full energy chain, e.g., production process. Now I am interested to share my opinion on how solar panel can be hazardous to our life in general.
Modern solar systems use components that radiate radio frequency ‘Electromagnetic Radiation’ (ER), which can cause the symptoms, such as headaches and restlessness (sources: http://www.eiwellspring.org/solaremfhazard.pdf ). In addition to this, ER has linked to serous disease like Cancer, Alzheimers, Parkinsons and others. Many studies show that solar panel systems produce a lot of ER and electromagnetic fields that are dangerous to living organisms. International solar radiation scholars recently come out stating ‘Solar Panel cause physical, mental and emotional chaos. Let’s take a closer look at some reports and statements made by the world class experts in the field of solar energy in particular.
David Anderson, writer for greet alliance said that ‘solar panels contain hazardous material that could be released when a panel is damaged or disposed of improperly’. He also suggested that ‘solar energy systems may also use potentially hazardous materials like oils and molten salts’. In fact, David Anderson describes solar energy systems as ‘One person’s beauty is another person’s eyesore’!
According to the Clean Technica organization report (2009), ‘solar panel production creates many of the same toxic byproducts as those found in semiconductor production, including silicon tetrachloride, dusts, and greenhouse gases like sulfur hexafluoride’.
Donald E. Simanek, solar scientist of Lock Haven University said that ‘we are already subject to a natural background radiation from the sun. The evidence is already clear that too much exposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer. Considering full production process of solar energy, we would then not even be safe from this cancer-producing energy even in our own homes’. He also said that we cannot totally ignore possible fire hazard of solar energy; the sun at naturally safe levels poses little fire treat. He stretches one single question: who would feel safe with solar energy concentrators on their roof? Simanek focuses on, in my point of view, more efficient measures need to be taken to make more sustainable consumption pattern in terms of solar energy system in particular.
What we know and what we want to know
The Government of Bangladesh plans to implement a mega solar project to provide renewable energy in rural areas with no access to grid electricity. According them, the solar energy is an ideal solution as it can provide gridles power and is quite close to clean in terms of pollution and health hazards. It will help people lift themselves out of poverty and create a better life. That is why the Government of Bangladesh has withdrawn all the import tariff and VAT on the raw materials of solar panels; the government owned Infrastructure Development Company has been providing financing for these small solar panel projects in the country. In the same vain, the Finance Minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhit said since the maintenance cost is very low, we could massively increase the use of solar power in the country (budget speech 2011). Additionally, in line with the governmental new solar energy policy, in the capital city, Dhaka, the power department has set a pre-condition of installing solar panels on buildings applying for new connections (Abu Rushd Md. Ruhul Amin, BanglaVision).
Considering aforesaid governmental interests, in my view, (1) Thevakumar Kandiah, Country Director of ADB’s Bangladesh Resident Mission said the Asian Development Bank has been at the forefront in funding to overcome market barriers for renewable energy in Bangladesh, (1) Taskin Choudhury, head of business development of Allied Solar Energy Ltd mentioned we have taken solar energy as an emerging business. At this moment, nearly half dozen firms stepped in to assemble panels. Unfortunately, the policy makers, doners, companies and solar panels assembling firms have had not paid as much attention to the dirtier side of Solar Panel System in terms of full chain of solar energy system in Bangladesh. Therefore, firstly, we need to know what the impact of electricity grid on the environment is. Secondly, we need to know what about solar energy regulatory system in Bangladesh? Here we need to remind the quotation of George Stigler, a Nobel laureate economist, ‘regulatory system is a process that benefit the firms and companies it is supposed to be regulating, rather than the public’. Thirdly, we need know why solar panel system spotlights more growing thorny issues like, (1) how do we feel safe with solar energy concentrators on our building roof? (3) How do people recycle discarded solar panels safely? (4) How do we protect ourselves during geomagnetic storms?
Moreover, do solar energy users aware why all the young trees are growing crooked at the back of their (solar energy users) property? According to Gerard, technical advisor in Victoria, ‘Electricity grid has had affected young trees and caused them to grow this way’! I wonder what harm it is really doing to us? Question remains: does the solar energy system prioritize the promotion of human rights? Or, does the solar energy system abuses human rights in Bangladesh? Bearing in mind, according to many human rights experts like, Benjamin K. Sovacool, Roman V. Sidortsov, and Benjamin R. Jones (2014), human rights abuses go unchecked when there is no one to report them! It is of the utmost importance to mention here is that human rights abuses do not require an explanatory framework-description is enough. Further research and improvements in the full solar energy chain is therefore paramount.
Writer: postdoctoral researcher, Aalto University, Finland.