- Feb 5, 2003
Now that's a tangent... I'm not sure where anyone wrote that solar was a flawless energy just that it's now more cost effective.Wow. Consider the source much?
Yeah. What are solar panels made from? Silicon. Sand. 2nd most abundant element on earth. Simple right? Sun and Sand!! WEEEEE Solar Energy is like a day at the beach.
Except how does sand become silicon which becomes solar panels? Not so simple. And not so green. It is an incredibly energy intensive process. You are turning sand into quartz, and metallurgical grade Si which is processed in high temperature furnaces over 1200 deg C. In many cases, you have feed gases of SiO2 and SiO4 that have hydrogen introduced in a super heated furnace of around 1500 deg C, to grow Silicon boules. The materials lining these furnaces are usually some form of graphite product, because the graphite has to be fairly pure and is one of the few materials that can take that kind of heat and without chemical attack.
Oh do you know how to make graphite? It takes off byproducts of petroleum processing (cokes) and steel making (pitches bitches) and let's see, you form them, then bake them at 1000 deg C to set the carbon structure and remove hydro carbons (which find their way into the atmosphere) and then.....you bake them at 3000 deg C (that's Celsius which is about 5500 deg F) so imagine the energy needed to make graphite. This is only to make structural components of a Si crystal growing furnace.
Again, you are growing crystals in these graphite furnaces at 1500 deg C, (more energy, more off gassing) then......the Si material is processed to usually a halogen sweeping gas at around 2000 deg C to drive off impurities (metals, alkalides, halides, etc...) to you get 99.999999999 (that's Nine 9's) percent purity to make the solar panels and semiconductor type of material.
Then you need land to build these solar farms.
Now because of the tremendous energy used to produce the materials to just make the panels along with the carbon products which inevitably turn to CO, CO2, CH4, etc...(aka "greenhouse gases" hello ozone, we are comin' for ya) we moved most manufacturing of these materials from the US and Europe so we can participate in Greta Thunberg's press conference and Paris Accord's to China and Malaysia where evidently greenhouse gasses don't matter or at least air pollution doesn't matter.
Now because of all this, they are obviously working on different, less energy and carbon dependent processes to make Silicon and also are working with other materials that possible can be used to make solar panels.
So cheaper? I doubt that? Clean and Green? I know that it isn't. I do believe in Renewables and think it is obviously important and imperative to continue to develop alternative sources as demand continues to increase as population and reliance on technologies increases. But "carbon neutral" by 2035? No way. And oh by the way, the above.....is not taken from some article, it is not opinion, it is what actually happens. I live this, every day.