Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes

Discussion in 'Politics' started by gwb-trading, Feb 10, 2013.

  1. Solar industry grapples with hazardous wastes

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Homeowners on the hunt for sparkling solar panels are lured by ads filled with images of pristine landscapes and bright sunshine, and words about the technology's benefits for the environment — and the wallet.

    What customers may not know is that there's a dirtier side.

    While solar is a far less polluting energy source than coal or natural gas, many panel makers are nevertheless grappling with a hazardous waste problem. Fueled partly by billions in government incentives, the industry is creating millions of solar panels each year and, in the process, millions of pounds of polluted sludge and contaminated water.

    To dispose of the material, the companies must transport it by truck or rail far from their own plants to waste facilities hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of miles away.

    The fossil fuels used to transport that waste, experts say, is not typically considered in calculating solar's carbon footprint, giving scientists and consumers who use the measurement to gauge a product's impact on global warming the impression that solar is cleaner than it is.

    After installing a solar panel, "it would take one to three months of generating electricity to pay off the energy invested in driving those hazardous waste emissions out of state," said Dustin Mulvaney, a San Jose State University environmental studies professor who conducts carbon footprint analyses of solar, biofuel and natural gas production.

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  2. 377OHMS


    I marvel at the way many people wear blinders when it comes to environmental issues.

    The pollution associated with solar cell production is one issue.

    The promotion of plug-in electric vehicles in states who generate power with coal is another. Those vehicles are effectively coal powered in those parts of the country. The use of lithium batteries will become problematic when those batteries need to be disposed at the end of their useful life.

    Around here there is an explosion of wind-power installations with *thousands* of new towers being installed and entire mountains covered with blinking red lights at night (the towers have beacon lights on them) where there used to be pristine mountain landscapes. The environmentalists seem to ignore the rape of wilderness areas for these installations that require new roads. Birds of all kinds are routinely killed by the rotating blades but that fact is ignored even though entire communities in the North West that relied on logging have been wiped out to preserve the Spotted Owl.

    I read an article that convinced me that far more power is consumed in the production of a wind power generator than is collected over the life of the generator. The production of the steel tower, the turbine and its blades requires more power than the tower generates cumulatively over its service life. It is as though the people making the decisions about our energy sources are incapable of understanding the basic economics involved or they are simply willing to ignore the facts.

    Another issue with wind power generation is the fact that these towers will someday need to be taken down at enormous cost. We are leaving future generations with a legacy of stupidity and an environmental disaster. There are already hundreds of wind towers near Palm Springs that are defunct and too old to retrofit with new turbine generators and they are just sitting there rusting with parts falling off of them and nobody stepping up to the task of removing them. If you've ever visited Palm Springs you've probably seen these huge fields of inoperative wind generators. Its a mess.
  3. Cheap, abundant, clean stirling engines in the Mojave Desert could generate all the energy we need, the Sonoran Desert in Mexico is even hotter. It won't happen of course. Small generators might make it to the market at some point...