New Book: Solar Cells 23,000 Times Worse for Environment Than Carbon Dioxide
By Staff News & Analysis - June 05, 2012

Solar Cells Linked to Greenhouse Gases Over 23,000 Times Worse than Carbon Dioxide According to New Book, Green Illusions … Solar cells do not offset greenhouse gases or curb fossil fuel use in the United States according to a new environmental book, Green Illusions (June 2012, University of Nebraska Press), written by University of California – Berkeley visiting scholar Ozzie Zehner. Green Illusions explains how the solar industry has grown to become one of the leading emitters of hexafluoroethane (C2F6), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). These three potent greenhouse gases, used by solar cell fabricators, make carbon dioxide (CO2) seem harmless. – PR Newswire

Dominant Social Theme: Say what? Tony the Tiger says solar cells are just Grrrrrrreeat! And Tony never lies.

Free-Market Analysis: Hoo boy! Whom can you trust anymore? For decades, we've been hearing about the promise of solar power and now it turns out that solar cells may be terrible for the environment.

Bottom line according to this new book, Green Illusions: Hexafluoroethane has a global warming potential that is 12,000 times higher than CO2.

This isn't just some statistic with a dubious genealogy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes this assessment. And it gets worse. Hexafluoroethane is "100 percent manufactured by humans, and survives 10,000 years once released into the atmosphere."

Here's some more from the press release:

Nitrogen trifluoride is 17,000 times more virulent than CO2, and SF6, the most treacherous greenhouse gas, is over 23,000 times more threatening. The solar photovoltaic industry is one of the fastest-growing emitters of these gases, which are now measurably accumulating within the earth's atmosphere according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A NOAA study shows that atmospheric concentrations of SF6 have been rising exponentially. A paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters documents that atmospheric NF3 levels have been rising 11 percent per year.

"If photovoltaic production grows, so will the associated side effects," claims Zehner. "Even worse, there's no evidence that solar cells offset fossil fuel use in the American context." Zehner explains that alternative energy subsidies keep retail electricity costs incrementally lower, which then spurs demand. "It's a boomerang effect," remarks Zehner. "The harder we throw alternative energy into the electrical grid, the harder demand comes back to hit us on the head. Historically, we've filled that demand by building more fossil fuel plants, not fewer."

Zehner advocates shifting to energy taxes and other conservation measures. He claims that even some of the most expensive options for dealing with CO2 would become cost competitive long before today's solar cell technologies.

"If limiting CO2 is our goal, we might be better off directing our time and resources to those options first; solar cells seem a wasteful and pricey strategy," says Zehner. "It is hard to conceive of a justification for extracting taxes from the working class to fund installations of Stone Age photovoltaic technologies high in the gold-rimmed suburbs of Arizona and California."

Green Illusions highlights and author biography are available at:

A friend of the Daily Bell adds the following:

"Subsidiary irony here is that solar hot water is a much better investment than solar PV. For that matter, so is insulation, envelope and duct leak repair, new windows, appliances upgrades. All these pay off faster than either solar, in NPV $$s or CO2 avoided …

"But try to sell solar hot water in California. Fat chance. Why? Bad rep from last round in the 70's is one reason, the first greenie push. The sexy front end of the green push has been until recently on solar PV… to go along with their smart grid and Agenda 21 theme."

After Thoughts

Ban solar cells! We won't hold our breath. At least not until the oxygen runs out …

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