The Part Of The Story Rarely Told

Issues & Insights posted an article today detailing the environmental problems with green energy. Yes, you read that right.

The article reports:

Left out of the often mistaken, never in doubt assertions of renewables’ unalloyed goodness is the fact that the hardware used is hardly renewable. It wears out and needs to be replaced. Then what?

“The problem of solar panel disposal ‘will explode with full force in two or three decades and wreck the environment’ because it ‘is a huge amount of waste and they are not easy to recycle,’” writes energy analyst Michael Shellenberger, quoting a Chinese recycling official.

In his 2018 Forbes column headlined “If Solar Panels Are So Clean, Why Do They Produce So Much Toxic Waste?” Shellenberger also quotes a four-decade veteran of America’s solar industry, who said “the reality is that there is a problem now, and it’s only going to get larger, expanding as rapidly as the PV industry expanded 10 years ago”; and researchers from the Institute for Photovoltaics in Stuttgart, Germany, who found that “contrary to previous assumptions, pollutants such as lead or carcinogenic cadmium can be almost completely washed out of the fragments of solar modules over a period of several months, for example by rainwater.”

More recently, Hazardous Waste Experts reported worn-out solar panels are “a potent source of hazardous waste,” producing a “dilemma” that “is especially virulent in California, Oregon, and Washington, as those states started adopting solar energy earliest in the game – suggesting that eco-virtue mightn’t necessarily be its own reward.”

And just as solar and wind chew up immense tracts of real estate, so, too, will the retirement of solar energy’s constituent parts.

I was not the world’s greatest student of physics (that is an understatement), but I do remember learning that it is impossible to make a perpetual motion machine because of friction. The quest for clean energy reminds me of the search for a perpetual motion machine. America has cut its carbon emissions in recent years by using more natural gas, which is a relatively clean source of energy. That change makes much more sense and is much less disruptive than some of the radical ideas being proposed by the political left in America.