Solar panels win reprieve in EU toxic substance ban

Reuters News
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Posted: May 27, 2011 6:43 AM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU ministers voted on Friday to exempt solar panels from a ban on toxic substances in electrical goods, enabling leading maker First Solar to keep selling its products in the industry's biggest market.

The revised European Union law generally bans the use of six hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, including cadmium, which is used by U.S.-based First Solar -- the world's No. 1 solar company by market share -- in its panels.

"In order to attain the EU's ambitious targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency, photovoltaic panels to produce energy from solar light do not have to comply with the restriction," EU ministers said in a statement after the vote.

"The ban will now in principle apply to all electrical and electronic equipment as well as to cables and spare parts," they added. Energy-saving light bulbs are also temporarily exempted from the directive.

The decision marks the latest step in an industry row over the use of cadmium telluride (CdTe) -- which goes into First Solar's panels -- as there are concerns about its eco-friendliness as well about its safe disposal.

(Reporting by Pete Harrison; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Mike Nesbit)