Sunday, September 20, 2009

Solar Power - Part 1

Solar power is probably seen as the least environmentally objectionable alternative, particularly in a country such as Australia that has a lot of sunshine hours.

It is not, however, practical in many regions that have frequent cloudy, rainy, dusty, or snowy days. It too is also expensive, presently costing many times more than fossil energy. Which pushes up the price per kilo-Watt hour of electricity production to the end user. An example is from The Age newspaper in an article designed to express the virtues of solar power:

The $4.5 million Windorah solar farm’s five dishes worked together for the first time last week. It will soon power the town – population 100 - all day long, cutting its reliance on diesel by 100,000 litres per year, or 300 tonnes of greenhouse gases.

This works out to an economic cost of $45,000 of solar dish per person to save a mere 300 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year. But only if it runs all the time, so does it?

Diesel generators kick in if the cloud cover persists and to maintain the continuous flow of electricity at night..

Apparently not!

So it is only reducing the reliance on the diesel generators not eliminating it as the initial claim would have you believe. Still being efficient with energy generation is a good thing, but the question remains about the economic viability of a system that would need such high levels of government subsidy to even get off the ground in such a small way.

Solar panels are also thought of and marketed as the "clean - green" alternative. But is that true of every aspect of their production? The bit that is hidden away by the Greens and environmental movement is the toxic chemicals produced when the solar panels are manufactured, poisoning the areas around Chinese factories:

..the by-product of polysilicon production USED IN PHOTO VOLTAIC CELLS is-silicon tetrachloride- a highly toxic substance that poses environmental hazards.

The figure above show that in 2007 in the USA there was a 22% increase in the use of solar over the 1995 levels.

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