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Just how “green” are your solar panels?

Just how “green” are your solar panels?

You may be seeing red after learning of the fire risks, hazardous waste generation, and impact on local wildlife.

Solar energy has been touted as the “greenest” and “safest” renewable energy option that is currently available.

However, after 8 long years of solar energy businesses being promoted by the U.S. government, hard numbers and real work experiences are causing people to reassess just how “green” solar energy is.

To begin with, it appears that solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of electricity generated than nuclear power plants:

The report found that solar panels use heavy metals, including lead, chromium and cadmium, which can harm the environment. The hazards of nuclear waste are well known and can be planned for, but very little has been done to mitigate solar waste issues.

“The problem with waste from solar is that it isn’t handled as well as nuclear waste,” Dr. Jeff Terry, a professor of nuclear physics involved in energy research at the Illinois Institute of Technology, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “There are two types of waste from solar. Waste from the manufacturing scene and waste from the solar panel after it has gone through its useful life. There are materials in those that if they leached out, it wouldn’t be good.”

And while nuclear energy production does generate radioactive wastes, the sheer volume difference shows that the nuclear energy is more efficient at energy production. And while “toxic” may seem less hazardous than “radioactives”, heavy metals are forever whereas radioactive particles decay over time. Chronic exposures to heavy metals can cause cancer, birth defects, and diseases of various target organs.

Besides the panels themselves, there is quite a bit of hazardous waste generated in the actual manufacture these items:

A 2013 investigation by the Associated Press found that from 2007 to 2011, the manufacture of solar panels in California “produced 46.5 million pounds of sludge and contaminated water. Roughly 97 percent of it was taken to hazardous waste facilities throughout the state, but more than 1.4 million pounds were transported to nine other states.”

Furthermore, the solar panels themselves present a unique set of environmental health and safety hazard. For example, in London, solar panels caught fire at a newly constructed, trendy, water-side complex.

A large blaze broke at a brand new block of flats in East London this afternoon with witnesses claiming the building’s solar panels appeared to have caught fire.

The roof of Bow Wharf was engulfed by flames leaving it partially collapsed at the scene which was between Bethnal Green and Mile End. Other floors were also damaged.

Shocked crowds gathered to watch as 80 firefighters battled the inferno in the five-floor building with huge plumes of smoke seen billowing into the air.

Additionally, the weight of solar panels can make roofs more susceptible to collapse during a fire and their presence creates other, potential hazards to consider during firefighting.

According to [Lt. Paul McAllister of the West Warwick Fire Department], the added weight from solar panels could force firefighters to go on the defense, rather than attack a fire from the inside.

“Normally, under ten minutes of heavy fire conditions, a roof structure usually collapses,” said McAllister. “This is probably going to be a little bit sooner now if we have solar panels on the roof.”

Firefighters say solar panels limit access to do vertical ventilation, which could impact the time it would take to put out a fire. “When we do vertical ventilation, it’s to reduce the fire and smoke spread throughout the building or structure,” explained McAllister.

“If we were to throw a ladder to the roof and the ladder would puncture the solar panels,” said McAllister, “that could cause an electrocution to the members who were putting the ladders on the roof.”

Finally, massive solar plants take a toll on wildlife. For example, the Mojave Desert solar power plant zaps 6,000 birds annually.

So, between the life safety issues, waste generation, and hazards to wildlife, about the only thing truly green about solar energy is the money being made by those pushing the renewable energy agenda.


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The math for these things has never worked for me.

50k cost to convert with a lifetime of 10-15 years to eliminate a power bill that is $1500/year. There is no tax break or government incentive good enough to make this a good idea.

Not to mention the giant heap of crap sitting on my roof or yard (flashbacks of yards with horrid looking satellite dishes for TV from 1982). This is not solid technology and WHEN it breaks, it’s my cost to repair/replace.

Updating to LED, replacing the old freezer from 1965, replacing the 30 year old water heater have been effective— and no we don’t need to place gimmick tax breaks on those things to make it happen because the math and the invisible hand already work just fine.

The drivers are renewable and nominally green. The converters, from recovery to reclamation, are neither, especially in commercial gauntlets and complexes. Nor can they be reasonably isolated from the environment, which ensures a progressive value.

Windmills, photovoltaic panels, etc. have a value, but the political myths promoted by environmentalists, and their political and corporate backers, of so-called “green, renewable energy” is a first-order forcing of catastrophic anthropogenic developmental misalignment. The same consequence as normalization of [class] diversity, Planned Parenthood, etc.

    n.n in reply to n.n. | July 5, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    Bottom line, the organic black blob has merits and demerits. As does the artificial green blight. As does every energy production and conversion technology. Each should be judged according to the content of its merits (e.g. character), not the perceived (or indoctrinated) content of its appearance (e.g. [class] diversity).

Yet another example of ‘The Left can’t advance its systemically flawed agenda unless it lies.’

We always must remember: no implementation of an idea of the left’s go unpunished.

There’s no shortage of anything in this country, in particular, clean energy. Solar is nice, but clean fossil fuel and intelligently designed nuclear energy are better.

We should put windmills in front of the crop of currently elected officials in this country: that hot air will power anything.

There are issues with wind turbines – they also kill birds, they are noisy and ugly. But, I also want to know who will take them down and reclaim the land when they burn up, become obsolete and the companies go bankrupt?

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Liz. | July 5, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    Not just that Liz, but get a load of this breaking in today’s headlines.

    “Wind farms jeopardize military flight training, agency chief says
    OKLAHOMA CITY – The head of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission said the proliferation of wind farms in western Oklahoma is having a negative impact on military flight training.
    A bill that would have required wind farms to seek permits through the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission was put on hold last session in a legislative conference committee, but at least two state lawmakers have requested interim studies on the issue.
    Victor Bird, Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission director, said some wind farms located near Vance Air Force Base in Enid and Altus Air Force Base are below military training routes, or pathways in the sky, that pilots use for training purposes……

    murkyv in reply to Liz. | July 5, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    When they put them in my county, The developers (who wrote our local wind ordinance for us) included a decommissioning escrow that was so ridiculously low it was laughable. Something like $200,000 for 145 500′ tall units.

    Basically, the farmers who so smugly cash their lease payments and shoved them in everyone else back yards are the ones are the ones who will be stuck with them once that 20 year lifespan rolls around.

    AND, as I understand it, per FAA regulations, those red blinking lights will have to remain working due to the height

inspectorudy | July 5, 2017 at 6:28 pm

Back in the mid-eighties, I decided to take advantage of solar energy to heat the water in my new home. I had panels installed on the roof that would circulate water through the panels to pre-heat the water going into the electric water heater. It worked ok but when I considered the cost it would take about 15 years to break even. Things went smoothly until that winter and even though I lived in North Florida the winters there can reach freezing several times during a normal winter. We were in Atlanta for Christmas and when we got home our roof was covered with ice and we had ice sickles that were ten feet long around the rear of our house. The little pump had frozen and stopped circulating the water and then the panels froze and broke open. Short story, it made me rethink the “Green” solution and I had the panels removed from my roof. I never broke even and would never do it again unless I lived in Arizona or Nevada. There will be no “Big” break through until the battery is found that will truly store energy that can compete with a gallon of gasoline. And the last item that is never discussed is the replacement of the batteries when they are no longer viable. How many people do you know who have had to replace their gasoline engine in eight years? That is the life expectancy of a Lithium battery pack. So take all of the “Electricity” saved(?) by the battery powered car and then add in a new battery in eight years or imagine the trade in value of your old car if the batteries have not been changed. ZERO.

    healthguyfsu in reply to inspectorudy. | July 5, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    Know a guy who worked one of those all day deals at the dealership to get an 80 dollars a month lease on a leaf AND the tax credit.

    He’s a flaming liberal, but even he isn’t stupid enough to own one of these.

Solar panels are great for what they were intended for, which is to provide a small but steady stream of electricity to places that can’t easily be wired and where recharging and replacing batteries wouldn’t be cost effective.

For the grid, they don’t make any sense at all In fact, the LA times had a story that Arizona had to be paid to take California’s excess solar energy, and they shut down their own solar power plants to do so. That’s actually called “negative pricing”.

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | July 5, 2017 at 8:08 pm

More of Obama’s Cronies’ Ready Jobs………

Global warming,Russia hacked the election, green energy, and many other liberal tenets are items I file under “Weapons Grade Stupidity”.

I’ve long been aware of the “green energy” fiction associated with solar panels. This is why I have proposed the “Who Cares? It’s Their Mess Act” as part of my Congressional campaign against Rep. Rosa DeLauro D-CT. Scroll down to Number 19 of my platform: (Note that I put this together in 2016; it’s needs some updating for my 2018 campaign.)

There was a hailstorm in my area that broke a lot of the solar panels that people had installed. Only then did these people find out that their homeowner’s insurance did not cover that damage; that they would have needed to buy a separate rider for them.

Any folks out there with solar panels, or even solar shingles, on their roofs had better check their homeowner’s insurance policies.

Albigensian | July 6, 2017 at 10:10 am

Of course, photovoltaic panels are only part of a residential solar installation; there’s also a power inverter (DC -> AC), batteries, and charge controllers (to prevent overcharging the batteries).

And all of these things have a finite life and, although some batteries (yes, those low-tech lead-acid ones) can be an often are recycled, the inverter and controller are electronic assemblies which, like all electronics, are made of complex materials and thus are notoriously difficult to recycle.

As for ‘Inspectorbudy,” solar hot water systems can be cost-effective in southern climates so long as they are well-designed and implemented. And at least some contemporary installations are both; however, more than a few were “designed” and installed by contractors who didn’t know what they were doing (and perhaps weren’t all that interested in learning).

Unfortunately, all too many residential HVAC contractors are far better at bending sheet metal than in correctly designing residential HVAC systems. Just getting the BTU per hour capacity right seems to strain the abilities of more than a few (let alone dealing with anything that’s not out-of-the-box standard practice).

In any case, Pres. Trump seems (unlike past Presidents, including more than a few Republicans) essentially agnostic on energy sources.

I saw the story about the solar panels catching fire in London and my first thoughts were “How do solar panels catch fire?”, and then “solar panels?? In LONDON?”. You need a certain amount of sun every day to make them cost-effective, or effective at all in their intended use.

Honestly I don’t get what all the kerfuffle is about. In Israel there is hardly a single house without solar water heaters. As far as I know (I could be wrong though) it is the law that every building has to have solar water heaters. It doesn’t make sense NOT to have them in a climate such as ours.

But I can’t understand having them in an area with extremely cold winters, which, as inspector above noted, causes them to freeze.

In some places in Israel it has become popular to cover the roof with solar panels in order to generate electricity, and the surplus is bought back by the national electric company from the consumer. However it takes several years for the cost to be defrayed, so it hasn’t gained much ground yet.

Albigensian | July 6, 2017 at 3:45 pm

One of the issues with solar power and fire safety is the difficulty in turning the solar power off.

If an appliance or other electric device develops a problem one can usually unplug it, or find some other way to disconnect it from its source of electric power.

BUT if a photovoltaic panel develops an internal short-circuit when the sun is shining on it, there isn’t really any way to turn it off other than to cover it with a (fire resistant) tarp.

Of course, the designers of these panels, and of the solar installations that use them, are supposed to provide internal fuses, circuit breakers, and/or current limiters to mitigate the risk of fire. But, that doesn’t mean they always do (let alone that “mistakes were made” doesn’t happen.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard of solar panels catching fire until this week’s story from London. Maybe Israeli solar panels are extremely well-made and installed, or maybe they work on a different system. Here they are used almost solely to generate hot water.