Solar Energy: Dirtier Than We Think

Feb 15, 2013 Read more: Daily Policy Digest

Proponents of solar energy often tout that solar panels produce far less pollution than coal or natural gas during energy production.

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Solarman

Twentynine Palms, CA

#1 Feb 16, 2013
"While the 20 year life of a solar panel still makes it the cleanest energy producing method, shipping hazardous waste, which is usually generated from water runoff in the production process, can add significantly to the carbon footprint of a product. Environmental advocates argue for more transparency in and adherence to the industry's reporting requirements given that the vast majority of solar companies have not been cited for pollution violations."

There are still old ARCO solar PV panels manufactured in the 1970's that are in use today. The 20 to 25 year figure is an industry standard for the warranty period of the panels. The panels should put out 80% or greater power of a new panel after the 20 to 25 year period. With the price of panels at a low, it is now possible to over design a system and put in 25 to 35% capacity over what is "just" needed to get by. Manufacturing has improved as well as panel sealing and connection technology. If a manufacturer is willing to warranty their product for 25 years, then how long will they really last and put out good usable power? From some of the old ARCO panels still being used today, perhaps an expected 50 year lifespan for the solar panels could be common. How much air pollution would an equivalent gas powered peaker plant create over a 50 year period? Cost to maintain and operate? Cost to meet new clean air standards?

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