[p2p-research] Earth's carrying capacity and Catton

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Sun Aug 16 23:05:13 CEST 2009

Ryan Lanham wrote:
>> Photovoltaic (current from light) is highly problematic so far.  It
>>> produces
>>> lots of waste plastics and requires many nasty chemicals.  Plus the
>>> electronics burn out...some over longer times than others, but they burn
>>> out.
>> Oh, come one. Citations? Solar panels usually have twenty to thirty year
>> warranties, and seem to last even  longer. In thirty years we'll likely have
>> all kinds of amazing material science -- maybe including nanotech
>> disassemblers.
> It's a great question.  What exactly are the waste products associated with
> solar...and how much carbon is used to make a panel?
> Whenever I ask these questions to the "green" solar manufacturers, I get
> blank stares or angry and factless retorts.  I don't believe there is green
> active solar yet.   Until someone shows that they have long mean-time
> between failures, low waste energy and carbon costs per Kw/h, and can be
> disposed of without major issues...I am skeptical of the whole industry.
> For now, it is moot because the costs rule them out as serious contenders
> for wide scale use.
> That these are nasty to produce is not controversial. Cadmium and selenium
> (both nasty) are widely used.  There are numerous patents and methods meant
> to rectify the problems.  None are industry scale so far as I know.

And you are saying, that producing enough solar panels in the USA for 
everyone is very much worse that producing the 250 million cars currently on 
the road, in terms of pollution? Let alone all the asphalt cars run on? 
(Ignoring the oil they burn and what that takes.)

You're grasping at straws here. Sure, there will be some pollution. Nothing 
like what coal and oil or nuclear have.

Example from 2008:
"Dark Side of Solar Cells Brightens: A life cycle analysis proves that solar 
cells are cleaner than conventional fossil fuel power generation"
It takes power to make power—even with a solar grand plan. From the mining 
of quartz sand to the coating with ethylene-vinyl acetate, manufacturing a 
photovoltaic (PV) solar cell requires energy—most often derived from the 
burning of fossil fuels. But a new analysis finds that even accounting for 
all the energy and waste involved, PV power would cut air 
pollution—including the greenhouse gases that cause climate change—by nearly 
90 percent if it replaced fossil fuels.
   Environmental engineer Vasilis Fthenakis, a senior scientist at 
Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., and his colleagues examined 
the four most common types of PV cells: multicrystalline silicon, 
monocrystalline silicon, ribbon silicon and thin-film. (Other contenders, 
such as amorphous silicon or superefficient multijunction cells were 
excluded for lack of data or lack of widespread application to date.) Even 
taking into account the low efficiency of thin-film solar cells or the 
energy needed to purify silicon for the other types of PV, all proved to 
entail significantly fewer emissions in their entire life cycle than the 
fossil fuels needed to produce an equivalent amount of electricity.
   In fact, most of their dirty side derived from the indirect emissions of 
the coal-burning power plants or other fossil fuels used to generate the 
electricity for PV manufacturing facilities. ...
   Even though thin-film solar PVs employ heavy metals such as cadmium 
recovered from mining slimes, the overall toxic emissions are "90 to 300 
times lower than those from coal power plants," the researchers write in 
Environmental Science & Technology.
   The energy benefits of solar photovoltaics will only improve as the 
technology continues to boost its efficiency at converting sunlight to 
electricity or proves to last longer than the 30 years anticipated by 
manufacturers. "There is no reason for this not to last a lot more than 30 
years," Fthenakis says.
   If solar energy begins to power its own production—a so-called PV breeder 
cycle, in which PV-generated electricity goes to produce more PV cells—the 
outlook is even sunnier. "I think 30 percent of the energy consumption in 
the [manufacturing] facilities is easily met from the land they have 
available [on] the roof and in the parking lot," Fthenakis says. ...

So, within a few years, even that fossil fuel use pollution will go away as 
we use solar panels to make solar panels, and we will be left with 1% of 
what we have now from coal.

Let me be frank. In *every* forum I have ever been in, for more that ten 
years actively discussing these sorts of issues, there has been tremendous 
resistance to solar power. Every single one. Yet all the facts are in 
solar's favor, increasingly so, including the fact that solar is a more 
inherently democratic technology.

Why is this? Follow the money is all I can say. Or, also, follow the power.

--Paul Fernhout

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