Solar panel production is causing rise of potent greenhouse gas

Nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, is a potent new greenhouse gas that can remain in the atmosphere for 740 years and is 1,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

    2017/03/10

NSFW    WASHINGTON — America’s growing reliance on solar power may have created a new enemy for environmentalists — a greenhouse gas that’s thousands of times more potent than CO2.

According to data recently released by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, carbon dioxide makes up 82 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The gas nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, accounts for only a small margin, but is on the rise.

Overall emissions fell by 2.2 percent, and CO2 has risen only 5.6 percent from 1990 to 2015. Levels of NF3, however, have seen a 1,057 percent increase over those same 25 years.

This exponential rise has been linked to the manufacturing sector, which uses the chemical to make solar panels, semiconductors and LCDs.

NF3 is mainly used as a cleaning agent to clear away excess silicone. The gas is mostly eliminated during use, but a small percentage is reportedly leaked into the atmosphere.

It’s unclear exactly how much has been leaked, but scientists warn that NF3 is highly effective at trapping heat, and can remain in the atmosphere for up to 740 years.

Scientists warn that NF3, when combined with CO2 and other greenhouse gases, could lead to a climate problem, especially with the emissions rising not only in the U.S., but in growing solar markets in Asia as well.

With carbon dioxide proving difficult to limit, environmentalists could soon target NF3 in their quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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