Analysis: ‘Solar isn’t that green really’
Solar energy isn’t all that ‘Green’ argues energy analyst Keith Bryer. He reports that making photovoltaic (PV) panels – known to the person in the street as solar panels – in particular produces by-products poisonous to a degree that dwarfs the miniscule amount radiated by uranium ore scattered across the Karoo. Wind generators need tons of copper, most dug up from enormous open cast mines that scar the landscape.
24 October 2016 – Leaving aside Eskom’s recent falling out of love with wind and solar power, there’s more to worry about these generators than the cost of running them, and feeding their power into the national grid.
Often whispered but rarely said aloud is the pollution they create – pollution every bit as bad as wild fantasies about nuclear radiation. Their pollution never degrades, ever. Recycling the poison is often an afterthought, if that.
Making photovoltaic (PV) panels in particular produces by-products poisonous to a degree that dwarfs the miniscule amount radiated by uranium ore scattered across the Karoo. Wind generators need tons of copper, most dug up from enormous open cast mines that scar the landscape.
But it is PV panels that create most pollution. Even environmental professors dare to say that every PV module uses at least one rare or precious metal such as silver, tellurium (a by-product of copper mining) or indium (from platinum mines).
Most people, including the Greens, have never heard of the latter two elements, or the vicious acids used like hydrochloric, and the even more frightening hydrofluoric. Greens may shudder at open cast mines but these chemicals are far worse.
PV panels include the use of sodium hydroxide, hydrofluoric acid, water and electricity
Making PV panels takes sodium hydroxide, hydrofluoric acid, water and electricity – so much for climate change, carbon dioxide emissions and removing toxic chemicals from the environment. The sunlight is free but that’s about it. And most PV panels are made in China these days, and China gets most its electricity from coal burning power stations.
The pollution aspects of making PV panels should be no secret. For thirty years sensible environmentalists in Silicon Valley in the US called the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) have monitored the problem. They have urged manufacturers to protect their workers, recycle, stop using toxic stuff, and dumping dangerous chemicals.