Coal Age

APR 2018

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April 2018 www.coalage.com 27 renewable energy continued gases into the environment and adds to global warming. The installation of solar panels re- quires tons of materials like aluminum, steel, plastic and rubber for infrastruc- ture. These industrial scale efforts cause considerable damage to the environment and use a great deal of energy. The harm- ful gases and materials released during the process, are dumped back into the envi- ronment an omen of calamitous conse- quences as capacity ramps up. Solar panels create 300 times more toxic waste per unit of energy than nuclear power plants. A 2013 investigation by the Asso- ciated Press found that from 2007 to 2011, the manufacturer of solar panels in California "produced 46.5 million lb of sludge and contaminated water. Near- ly 97% of it was transported to hazard- ous waste facilities in the state, whereas more than 1.4 million lb were transported to nine other states." How Solar Farms Affect the Ecology Land — many thousands of acres — is cleared and used to develop glistening solar power facilities adversely affecting native vegetation and wildlife adding imbalance to the environment resulting in loss of habitat, interference in rain- fall and drainage. Indigenous fauna is injured or killed by direct contact with solar farm installations. Worse, the land is not available for use or for access. It is a fenced reservation, a virtual parking lot with the same albedo. It will adversely af- fect the local climate in dramatic fashion. These are massive, contiguous, impervi- ous hot zones that do not find similarity in nature. It is the embodiment of instant urbanization. Land Use Solar development projects in Ivanpah Valley are not the kind of wildlife-friend- ly renewable energy projects one would have expected. There are no global warming emis- sions that are formed during the power generation by solar energy. But the change in albedo in massive areas does signifi- cantly fuel climate change. Also, there are harmful gases associated with other stages of solar life cycle, including manu- facturing, materials transportation, main- tenance, installation and during recycling. Yet, the interruption of flora growth below the installed panels can and does impact the take up of greenhouse gases normal to a thriving ecosystem. Solar farms require vast tracts of land. Typically, these are found far from the market where power is most needed. Ex- pensive transmission lines are deployed to bring the power to a distant market impacting surrounding land and wildlife. Merely clearing and grading the land re- sults in soil erosion, compaction and al- teration of drainage channels. The sun shines continuously, but Earth is not solar synchronous. It presents a changing face to the sun throughout its 24-hour diurnal cycle. Also, it is not only the hours of daylight that matter, but var- ious places receive less energy at times, which changes with the weather, and the season. Therefore, every solar/alternative energy installation requires co-genera- tion facilities, which are installed to run in concert with farms and are designed to run continuously. This too adds cost to the project. Storage is another major problem so- lar industries face today. They have the equipment to harness energy but not to store it. The cyclic nature of the sun and the unknowable weather requires sig- nificant expense to have off-generating capacity. Storage facilities in a matching capacity may exceed the cost of the solar farm itself. The LCOE - Cost per Kilowatt Comparisons Powerplants have an economic lifecycle that is governed by the cost-per-kilowatt. The comparisons are called levelized costs of electricity. The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) is calculated by the following expression above. It must be noted that Solar Photovol- taic has an average LCO of 125 compared to Solar Thermal at 240, Coal at 95 and Natural gas at 73. Taken alone this is only a 30%-40% increase. However, this does not include power leveling storage facilities which are necessary for grid scale solar farms. Adding them in, the LCOE jumps to 198. Taking out the government incen- tives for solar initiatives, adds an addition- al 31 to bring the total to 229. Certainly, this economic landscape is bleak. Worse, it does not contain the decommissioning costs at the end of life. Ignorance is Not Bliss Solar panel manufacturers are not aware how much damage they could cause to the environment and social life. Solar compa- nies must adopt sustainable procedures and techniques from manufacturing to disposal before making the claim …. "So- lar Energy is Really Clean and Green." As a small complement to convention - al power plants, solar thermal and solar PV is both desirable and needed. For low power consumption devices attached to a rechargeable storage media, it is a great solution. But, for powering our civilization as a significant adjunct, it will portent a nightmare. Like Janus, we must look beyond to comprehend the effects of a solar econ- omy. Earth is not ready for the pain solar will bring. Joseph Cohen is an executive scientist at Casimir Systemics LLC. A physicist since the mid 1980s, he has designed high-energy laser systems, epitaxial HgCdTe FPA's, fluid separation techniques, plasma polymeriza- tion systems, chalcogenide fiber lasers, laser gyroscopes, and developed energy carrier recovery technologies. Currently, he runs the R&D department for Sarc Global Inc.

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