Dan Way reports for Carolina Journal today about GenX use in solar panels. This has been an ongoing discussion in North Carolina in recent years, as state policies have heavily incentivized and promoted solar energy facilities without even requiring reclamation bonding for the sites.
GenX chemicals are classified as perfluorinated alkylated substances, commonly called PFAS. Responding to a CJ query, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said, “Publicly available information indicates that PFAS are used in the production of fluoropolymer Teflon film that is marketed for use in photovoltaics, which could include components of solar cells/panels.”
Chemical manufacturer Chemours makes GenX at its Fayetteville Works plant. The state and others have sued the company for releasing the chemical into the Cape Fear River, contaminating drinking supplies.
Mark J. Strynar, an EPA scientist whose research helped to identify Chemours’ GenX pollution, has said the EPA compiled 39 records showing PFAS related to solar panel components. Chemours uses GenX to make Teflon. Its marketing materials say Teflon film is used as the front coating in many solar panels.
Of course, keeping in mind Paracelsus, a presence of the chemical itself would not automatically mean the panels are unsafe for use.
Alan Ducatman, who teaches environmental health sciences at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health, has studied the health effects of GenX. He has noted studies show GenX displays biological effects like the C8 compound it replaced in Teflon production.
Chemours and DuPont in 2017 settled lawsuits from more than 3,500 claimants for $670.7 million Production of Teflon using C8 at Chemours’ Parkersburg, West Virginia, factory was linked to kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, hypertension, and other health problems.
Ducatman told CJ chemists are best suited to answer whether GenX in solar panels poses a health risk.
Again, however, it is because of unknowns such as these that it would be prudent to require reclamation bonding. It is a standard environmental protection for other land uses. Even the Bureau of Land Management under President Barack Obama required full reclamation bonding for solar and wind energy projects on public lands.