Solar energy - Inevitable choice

3:30:16 PM | 27/11/2020

Currently, renewable energy plays a very important role in replenishing and responding significantly to the increasing energy needs. It is an abundant resource, available and common in nature. Solar energy can be nearly limitless in most areas of the world, emerging as an ideal alternative to other traditional energies.

Solar farm in the Southeast border

In mid-November 2020, the 38th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) agreed on the goal of increasing the share of renewable energy to 23% in the power source structure and reduce energy intensity to 32% in 2025. 10 ASEAN member countries, including Vietnam, will continue to build a renewable energy development roadmap by launching action programs and plans to achieve the objective.

The European Union (EU) also has priority policies for energy development and prospects for ASEAN-EU cooperation on transition to ​​sustainable energy in ASEAN.

Obviously, in the new era, renewable energy is accelerating on the path to affirm its dominant and important contributions to maintaining sustainable and more meaningful socioeconomic development. The world is increasingly faced with environmental pollution, global temperature rise, extreme climate change and extreme natural disasters. Does development still make sense when we are paying too much for our exploitation of fossil resources for thermal power, our destruction of natural forests and our change river flows and lakes for hydropower construction that have broken natural ecosystems and caused great consequences for the living environment of today and tomorrow (?)!

The Institute of Energy under the Ministry of Industry and Trade said that the technical potential of solar power in Vietnam is about 1,677.5 GW. Under the high economic development scenario, by 2030, a total of 385.8 GW of solar power will be put into operation to serve economic development.

With such great potential, some negative and incorrect information and opinions may hinder the development of solar power in Vietnam. It is believed that expired solar cells will become hazardous waste in the environment and need to be disposed of. That remark is voluntarily subjective, lack of objectivity, and superficial.

Are solar panels hazardous waste?

According to MSc. Dao Minh Hien, Director of R&D Center - Pecc2, solar panel/module, which consists of many photovoltaic cells or solar cells, is a semiconductor element - photovoltaic on the surface of light sensors - transforming light energy into electrical energy.

The core material for making photovoltaic cells is crystalline silicon (monocrystalline or polycrystalline) or thin silicon film, which is the main element of a solar panel.

 Photovoltaic cells

Main materials used to make solar panels:

Solar panel composition

Frame: Made of aluminum.

Glass: Tempered/safe glass, produced from sand with the main element of silicon oxide (SiO2) - a common material to make glass bottles for food.

EVA film (Encapsulant) is a layer (a thin polymer, a combination of ethylene and acetate is produced through polymerization under very high pressure) that firmly connects photovoltaic cells with tempered glass to protect against impact while improving photovoltaic lifespan.

Backsheet coating is made of PVF (polyvinyl fluoride - a polymer material mainly used in aircraft interiors and raincoats. Some more advanced batteries are coated by doubled tempered glass to protect the underside of photoelectric cells from environmental abrasion,

Junction box: The box is a heat-resistant, fireproof, weather-resistant, anti-aging polymer. Connectors in the box are made of silver-coated or tin-coated brass.

Junction box

Wirings, made of copper or silver, connect photovoltaic cells with the junction box.

It can be seen that: The main parts of a solar panel do not contain hazardous substances. So, it is groundless to say that expired solar panels will become hazardous waste and need treatment.

This wrong statement perhaps comes from the Vietnamese terms used for solar energy: “Pin” for both cells and batteries.

Since the French colonial period, flashlights and battery-operated radio sets were popular belongings of the wealthy aristocrats and landlords in Vietnam. During the 20th century, we were very familiar with battery brands such as “Con Ó” and “Con Thỏ”.

Flashlight and Con O battery

For that reason, to Vietnamese people, “pin” is linked to hazardous waste (acid or lead). And, the solar cell becomes the “victim” of this sense because it is also called “pin”.

So, why is it called “pin”, not another name?

Derived from “CELL”

In daily life, when we buy/replace batteries for laptops or cell phones, we often ask “How many cells are there in this battery?”, “4 cells or 6 cells or so? This is a technical term used to describe the battery's capacity.

The “SOLAR PANEL/MODULE” and “RECHARGEABLE BATTERY” has a similar system as follows:

The battery is made from CELLs of several volts put together into MODULES which are linked together into RACKs which are assembled into electrical storage SYSTEM.

Composition of the charging system

The structure of a “SOLAR PANEL” is similar. Photovoltaic CELLS are put together into MODULES/PANELS which are assembled into ARRAYS/TABLES which are fitted together into SYSTEMS.

The composition of a photovoltaic cell or solar cell

Therefore, the Vietnamese term “pin” for the solar power system comes from this similarity. But “SOLAR PANEL” is not a hazardous waste and this confusion is resulted from its naming.

 Thanh Dũng (Vietnam Business Forum)