Wednesday, June 2, 2010

First Solar may Catch a Break on European Hazardous Waste Code (FSLR; GE)

This could be doubly good for the Cadmium Telluride crowd (FSLR, GE's Primestar) as California had adopted the EU's Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive pretty much wholesale.
From Bloomberg:
Solar Panels May Be Exempted in EU Hazardous Substance Revamp
The solar-power industry may win exemption from European Union changes to rules governing the use of hazardous substances in electrical goods, offering a reprieve to panel makers such as First Solar Inc., lawmakers said.

The rule changes, to be put to a parliamentary committee vote in Brussels today, propose giving the EU more scope to restrict substances such as cadmium in electrical goods. Panels made by U.S.-based First Solar, the world’s largest maker of thin-film solar power modules, are based on cadmium tellurite.

Most lawmakers in parliament’s 64-seat environment group are now seeking a compromise, increasing the EU’s powers to restrict dangerous materials while excluding renewable energy products, according to German EU lawmaker Karl-Heinz Florenz. The European People’s Party, which controls 23 votes, has the support of the Greens and a majority of Social Democrats for the move, he said.

“In all probability, we’ll gain backing for an exemption - - though one that’s temporary,” Florenz, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said in a phone interview. The compromise would exempt cadmium tellurite used in any large, fixed renewable energy facility, subject to a review in 2014, he said.

Cadmium is an “extremely toxic metal” commonly found in industrial workplaces, according to U.S. Department of Labor website....MORE

A couple years ago we posted "First Solar, PrimeStar Solar and Cadmium Risks (FSLR; GE)":

There has been quite a bit of misinformation flying around the blogosphere on the risk to human health from FSLR's use of cadmium in their photovoltaic cells. Cd is comparatively stable, FSLR's compound, CdTe, more so. There is some risk when it is exposed to fire but the fire has to be hot.* See note below.

The biggest risk is political. If one of the German ground arrays that use FSLR cells were to suffer a grass fire, it is probable that no cadmium would be released. It is also probable that FSLR would have a tough sell convincing the populace and politicians to allow any further deployment of CdTe. Cd is one of the six hazardous materials subject to the EU's "Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive"

The National Renewable Energy Lab did a lot of the development work on CdTe with FSLR.
Here are a few of their publications on the subject, reading the first one will make you smarter on this subject than 99% of all bloggers (I know, not a high bar)...

...*If I remember correctly (this is Boy Scout chemistry merit badge stuff, so don't take it as Gospel), a gasoline fire burns at 900C (about 1650F) to 1250C (about 2280F).

A truck carrying PV modules, colliding with a gasoline tanker could reach temperatures high enough to sublimate and even vaporize CdTe.

Which for some reason reminds me of Gary Larson's Far Side cartoon of the crash between "Bob's Assorted Rodents" and "Al's Small Flightless Birds":

The cat being a short-seller who hadn't pulled the trigger.

Again, the risk seems to be political. I can't help you quantify that.
At the time FSLR was trading at $282.00 versus yesterday's close of $107.11