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.DONATE
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