So, I Google “solar power myths, and came across a few solar power apologists on the web. Picking one I decided to check into the accuracy of their arguments.
The post in question was blog entry at Calfinder.com, a site that connects residential homeowners to solar power contractors.
7 Solar Power Myths Put to Shame
Written by Brittany Mauriss and Taylen Peterson
If there’s one thing green bloggers can’t stand, it’s a half-cracked solar misconception. So let’s get a few things straight. Here are the solar myths and the facts that put those myths to shame.
#1 – Myth: Solar systems only work in really hot areas of the world
Busted: Not only can solar systems work in most areas of the world, but Germany, the world leader in solar energy, lies farther north than most states in the EU. While solar panels will be able to gather more energy in super sunny areas, solar energy works even for people in Alaska, where the sky is crazy dark for months at a time. So whether you live in crispy Arizona or the cold, dark corners of the upper Midwest, solar power is always possible!
First, this all depends on the type of solar power you’re talking about. Regardless, however, weather DOES play a factor when it comes to solar energy. Photo voltaic systems are not as adversely effected as older solar systems that relay on the sun heating water. The latter does not fare so well when it is two-degrees above zero outside.
However, the part I love about this “busted” myth is the comment about Germany. According to the European Nuclear Society, In 2008 the annual power generation of photo voltaic systems was not even 1% of Germany’s total energy production.
If this is the “leader” in solar power, I’d start finding better leadership if I were them.
#2 – Myth: More pollution is generated manufacturing solar panels than can ever be offset by solar energy
Naysayers are really getting sneaky with this one. Studies show that the average PV system only takes one year to offset the pollution generated by its own production. So your 30 years of fruitful renewable energy will produce totally clean power for approximately 29 of those years. Not bad at all. Plus, think about all the dirty energy that you’re not producing with conventional fossil-fueled electricity. For each clean kilowatt of solar electricity you generate, that’s 9 grams of sulfuric oxide, 16 kilograms of nitrous oxide and 600-2,300 kilograms of carbon dioxide that you – just you – are not pumping into the atmosphere. I thank you, and my future babies thank you.
First, carbon dioxide is NOT a pollutant. As one climate scientist put it: “it’s plant food.” Life on this earth depends on carbon dioxide being pumped into the air.
Furthermore, as many studies – even from the IPCC have shown – there is no direct correlation between an increase in carbon dioxide levels in the upper atmosphere, and alleged Man Made Global Warming.
As far as pollutants, you average volcano dumps more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere than ALL of the coal-fired power plants in the US.
My proof? Well, if we use the numbers in the “myth” above to be true – 9 grams per KW – and using the only number I can find for the amount of energy produced in the US (350,000 MW) per year, that gives us:
315,000,000 KW x 9 g = 2,835,000,000 g, or 2,835 metric tonnes of sulfur dioxide pumped into the air every year from coal energy. That might be slightly higher as the numbers I used for energy production come from 2001.
Now, consider the following:
Emission rates of SO2 from an active volcano range from <20 tonnes/day to >10 million tonnes/day according to the style of volcanic activity and type and volume of magma involved.
So, taking the lowest number (20 tonnes) over the course of a year:
20 metric tonnes x 365 days = 7,300 metric tonnes (minimum) of sulfur dioxide pumped into the air every year from a single volcano.
There are about 20 active and potentially active volcanoes in the US. You can do the rest of the math from there. The amount of sulfur dioxide put into the atmosphere by coal-fired power plants is miniscule by comparison.
#3 – Myth: Solar power is way too ridiculously expensive
Busted (sort-of): We’re not going to jerk you around on this one. While home solar power is still not as cheap or easy as sticking with the status quo, it does pay for itself with a little patience. Every time the industry sees another breakthrough in cell efficiency and a rise in consumer demand, solar inches that much closer to your front door. Quite the opposite holds true for traditional energy sources, however, as they will continue to increase in price and become harder and harder to come by. Think about it – with federal incentives and rebates available in every state, now is the time to get your hands on some hot photovoltaic action!
First, a federal rebate to pay for a photo voltaic system is basically taxing the producer to provide him a rebate. Plus, with the national debt being the way it is, I find it really hard to believe that providing subsidies for solar power is a fiscally responsible thing. Putting that aside, however, solar power is MASSIVELY more expensive. You can buy a 200W solar kit at Home Depot for approximately $1,180.00, which puts that at approximately $60.00 per watt. You pay pennies per kilowatt hour with standard coal-generated electricity. But not only that, when the sun goes down, your solar energy production ceases. Thus, you have to purchase a storage system, and a regulating system all of which means a HUGE increase in cost. Then, there are batteries that wear out over time, the maintenance you’ll have to do in order to get peak efficiency (I mean, things like snow on your solar panels tends to block the sun), and so on. The cost per watt is literally enormous.
In short, even with the latest 20W CF bulbs, the most you’ll be able to power is 10 lamps, maximum. A refrigerator on top of that? Fuggetabouit!
So, this isn’t “busted (sort-of).” This is absolutely true. Solar electricity is hugely expensive, especially for the average consumer.
#4 – Myth: Solar power cannot contribute enough energy to meet the nation’s needs
Busted: The good thing about our sun is that it’s really, really big. All parts of our country receive enough sunlight to power both commercial and residential electricity. But OK, OK, suppose that our pristine coal mining towns of Illinois refuse to besmirch their scenic countryside with unsightly solar panels. In such a case, we’ll need to take a half-step outside the box. Good thing that a 100-by-100-mile patch of land in Nevada could generate enough solar electricity to power the entire United States of America. And that ain’t no myth.
If that area were broken up by state, that’s still only 17-by-17-mile plots of land. That space is available today in every state via rooftops, parking lots and abandoned industrial sites across the country. Whichever way you slice it, solar power makes crystal clear common sense.
As I’ve pointed out, Germany – the professed “leader” in solar power – only generates about 0.7% of its power from solar. While the notion of a 100 x 100 mile grid of solar cells sounds all nice and fine, I’m sure that number does not take into account transmission losses as the electricity is sent to New York. There’s a reason why all electricity generation is regional, and that’s because of the amount of loss when that energy is moved overland.
It also doesn’t take into account tiny little things like maintenance, what happens when the sun goes down, and a energy storage system that doesn’t exist to capture and store energy produced from solar panels.
Theoretically, it all sounds nice and fine. Practically, it is a total myth.
#5 – Myth: If covered with solar panels, the Sahara Desert could power all of Europe
Busted (sort-of): A long running rumor, this idea was mentioned by Arnulf Jaeger-Walden of the European Commission’s Institute for Energy. He stated that less than half of 1% of the desert would need to be covered in order to power all of Europe, showing that on the surface, this myth is possible. However, the odds of it happening are quite slim. Fighting back preservation groups, getting permission from one or more countries in Northern Africa (along with continued cooperation), securing a grid in place for bringing that energy across the Mediterranean Sea and between all the countries, and determining how to govern and use that energy across multiple sovereign countries are all roadblocks to this actually happening. Our prediction? Not happening anytime soon. Look for countries to continue supplying their own alternative energy.
I’m not even going to bother with this one. It is a pointless discussion. If the Europeans want to slit their own throats, that’s their business.
#6 – Myth: Solar power systems are simply unreliable
Busted: Check it out – solar electric systems run silently and contain no moving parts. Those two attributes alone give them a one-up on your sputtering old Chevy. Solar systems are rigorously tested and certified by various government and private organizations.
While you’re at it, consider motive. As part of the global green energy movement, major solar manufacturers build these systems to try to offset the (quite possibly irreversible) effects of global warming. They’re not out there to make a quick buck, seeing as parts and training are incredibly expensive. Talk to any solar installer about their work and they’ll share their passion for industry trends, exciting new developments and a love for actually educating homeowners about the intricacies of solar. It takes a special kind of contractor to care so much.
This one is utterly rich. I guess Einstein here hasn’t figured out that the sun goes down every night. Just like wind turbines are totally reliable so long as the wind blows.
As for these things running “silently”, you’re correct. They don’t even produce enough electricity to power a stereo. But unless you’re willing to ignore little things like the loss of production on overcast days, heat issues, loss issues, declining storage capacity due to battery wear, and the constant maintenance required to keep the panel as free from debris as possible (birds tend to take a dump wherever they deem fit), they are a maintenance nightmare. This isn’t exactly what I call “reliable.”
But I guess when you live in Fantasyland, definitions are a tad more “fluid.”
Moreover, the notion that solar energy can dampen Man Made Global Warming comes up against one ugly little fact: there is no such thing as Man Made Global Warming. Recently, Phil Jones – Global Warming scientist extraordinaire – admitted that there has been not statistically significant global warming from 1995 to the present day. None. It was all a hoax.
B – Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?
Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.
So, if you’re relying on the notion that the world is warming to push solar, you have absolutely no justification now.
#7 – Myth: You can create your own solar panel through DIY websites
Busted: Theoretically, it is possible to create your own solar panels with the proper tools and skill sets. For the average handyman, however, these two things are mutually exclusive. In order to receive the proper training needed to complete these “step-by-step” guides and obtain the tools for the job, you will have spent as much, if not more, time and money than if you had just hired a professional solar installer in the first place.
It isn’t “theoretically” possible, you CAN make your own solar panels. They won’t be as efficient as the mass-produced types, but then again mass-produced solar panels are so pathetic in their power generation, and are so costly, that you might do a better job making them yourself from junk.
In summation, solar rules all.
Pfft! In your dreams!