Hail Storm Exposes Risks of Renewable Energy

hail storm
Damage done to solar panels during a hail storm | Images by Fox 26

A hail storm earlier in March demolished a massive solar energy farm in Texas, exposing the vulnerability of relying on renewable energy over traditional energy sources.

The catastrophic damage to the solar field will require most of the panels to be replaced; however, the power grid was not affected. The solar plant owner said the destroyed panels do not pose a risk to the public.

“As far as solar farms being damaged where hail and tornadoes are common, those companies knowingly run the risk of building solar panel farms in these areas,” spokesperson Emily Matthews told Fox News Digital. Matthews works for Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), whose district the solar plant was located in.

“Events like this underscore the importance of having an all-of-the-above energy approach to meet our energy needs and showcase how our country cannot solely rely on or fully transition to renewable energy sources like this,” added Matthews.

Solar panels that are no longer usable are typically classified as hazardous waste.

“My concern is the hail damage that came through and busted these panels — we now have some highly toxic chemicals that could be potentially leaking into our water tables,” Needville resident Nick Kaminski told Fox affiliate KRIV-TV. “I have a family — two children and a wife. My neighbors have kids, and a lot of other residents in the area who are on well water are concerned that the chemicals are now leaking into our water tables.”

Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), the parent company of the destroyed solar farm developer, said the panels are currently not at risk of leaking chemicals.

“The silicon-based panels contain no cadmium telluride, and we have identified no risk to the local community or the environment,” CIP told Fox News Digital.

Silicone-based panels can potentially release toxic chemicals depending on the exact type of panel and how it is constructed. Solar panels can contain elements including chromium and chemicals such as cadmium telluride. As an element, chromium is non-toxic, but the type often used in solar is hexavalent chromium, which poses a risk to humans.
Only Washington mandates that solar panels be recycled. Other states rely on a complicated process of determining whether the panel is considered hazardous waste. Due to the lack of mandates, thousands of panels end up in landfills. A solar panel typically has a life expectancy of 25 years. Recyclers claim that about 80% of the materials of a solar panel can be recovered. Still, the costs are often higher than the value of the recovered material, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Recycling one solar panel costs between $15 and $45, compared to $1-5 to send to a landfill, according to Bloomberg Law. Solar panels are anticipated to add millions of metric tons of waste to landfills in the coming decades, from commercial solar fields to aged-out residential rooftop solar.
States must consider the long-term costs of solar and the vulnerability placed on the grid by over-reliance, especially in locations like California, which has mandated renewable energy sources while eliminating natural gas, coal, and nuclear sources.

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