Assignment 2: How green is solar power?

We currently live in a time where many people are conscious of the impact humans are creating on the world. One impact the way we create energy through using fossil fuels, which is releasing carbon dioxide (CO2) into the Earth’s atmosphere. This release of CO2 from fossil fuel’s to generate energy has prompted the research of renewable resources, such as wind and solar power. But are renewable resources, like solar power, truly as clean as we all think and hope? Creating the panels that absorb the sunlight, as well as many of the other components that make up the entire solar panel, uses many toxic and dangerous chemicals, as well as requiring energy generated from fossil fuels to produce. “Fabricating the panels requires caustic chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid, and the process uses water as well as electricity, the production of which emits greenhouse gases”.[1] How much CO2 is emitted per kilowatt hour through the process of producing solar panels, verses how much CO2 is emitted per kilowatt hour of coal and natural gas power plants?[2]

Other possible questions to ask would be how much pollutants are generated through an entire life cycle of creating solar panels, from the mining of the materials, to the decommissioning of a panel. Is it worth the process of creating a new solar panel, or to recycle existing panels?[3]

I think that most would want the conclusion for this topic to show that the production of solar panels produces far less CO2 emissions than using fossil fuels like coal, or natural gas. However, the conclusion may not show what the masses would like. The main question to ask, if the outcome shows solar panel production produces more CO2 emissions from the mining of materials to denomination, would be to ask if the creation of solar panels will slow, or possibly halt the use of coal, and/or natural gas.


[1] Nunez, Christina. “How Green Are Those Solar Panels, Really?” National Geographic. November 11, 2014. Accessed February 18, 2016.

[2] Nawaz, I., and G. N. Tiwari. “Embodied Energy Analysis of Photovoltaic (PV) System Based on Macro- and Micro-level.” Energy Policy 34, no. 17 (November 2006): 3144-152. Accessed February 19, 2016.

[3] Fthenakis, Vasilis, and Erik Alsema. “Photovoltaics Energy PaybackTimes, Greenhouse GasEmissions and External Costs:2004–early 2005 Status.” Progress in Photovoltaics 14, no. 3 (March 29, 2006): 275-80. Accessed February 19, 2016. Energy Payback Times, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and External Costs: 2004–early 2005 Status&rft.jtitle=Progress in photovoltaics&, E.A&, V&¶mdict=en-US.

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