Issues & Insights

That Dirty Green Energy

Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay

While governments from Washington westward to California are forcing vaccinations on Americans whether they want the shots or not, don’t forget that policymakers want to do much the same with renewable energy. But renewables aren’t the unalloyed good we’re told they are. They have nasty downsides.

The forms of energy accepted by activists and politicians as “renewable” or “green” are restricted to wind and solar. While both are renewable (and are intermittent and therefore unreliable), neither is truly green. In this editorial, we will focus on solar, just to keep things short.

Solar power depends on photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight to electricity. Those panels, indispensable to the process, are where solar power’s green reputation breaks down.

To start with, solar panels have a lifespan of roughly 25 to 30 years, so at some point, they become trash. (For the record, powering the world with solar energy would require more than 51 billion panels, which would take up more than 115,000 square miles, a parcel of land larger than Arizona.)

There are nearly 1.5 million panels right now in the lower 48.) What do we do with them?

Solar panels are recyclable – technically. But “the process in which materials are separated can be tedious and requires advanced machinery,” says CED Greentech, which means energy will be burned to extract the components.

Consequently, most dead solar panels, which are in fact considered hazardous waste, end up in landfills. Which isn’t green at all, since the greens despise landfills.

According to Joel S. Holmes, who has experience as an alternative energy engineer, and “had the misfortune to work with solar electric panels occasionally,” we should expect there to be “literally … mountains of” solar panels in the waste stream, which will create “mountains of toxins,” as solar panels are simply “toxic metals embedded in glass.”

Holmes also points out in The Lid blog that “the land on which they were placed is no longer suitable for agriculture. Or for people to live on.”

“Toxins from the solar panels,” he adds, “and the associated mechanical and electric equipment will have leached into the soil for 25 years. Thus, when more farmland is needed to grow food, the massive areas covered by solar panels are not a candidate.”

And solar farms, like wind farms, do eat up the land. They need 450 times more ground than nuclear plants, and about 100 times as much as generating stations fueled by natural gas.

Solar energy’s green cred is actually ruined long before facilities are built and panels become trash. Again, here’s Holmes from The Lid.

Making a solar electric panel produces more CO2 than the panel will ever save.

And it’s also a sword of truth that solar electric panels are made in China. Made in factories using huge amounts of high heat in production. And these are powered by coal-fired electric generating plants.

Solar electric panels are basically created by fossil fuels. And as mentioned, their preparation produces more CO2 than they will ever save.

Scraping up raw materials for green energy is another dark corner politicians and activists avoid. For instance, mining for silver, indium, and the rare earths needed to make solar panels and other renewables-associated hardware “is dirty, ecologically destructive, and consumes significant amounts of hydrocarbon energy,” say Henry I. Miller and Andrew I. Fillat.

And then there’s the glass, steel, and concrete needed to build solar farms. They require about 15 times more of those materials than gas-powered plants.

We now live in a world where political enemies accuse each other of telling the “Big Lie” to make points. But we’re not sure that there’s a bigger lie out there than the one that says renewable energy is the path to a cleaner environment. It’s like Pinocchio with his pants on fire.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board 

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The Issues and Insights Editorial Board has decades of experience in journalism, commentary and public policy.

19 comments

  • Solar and Wind power stations in this country operate optimally on average about 15% to 35% of the time. That’s all.

  • I would love even more information on this, as I am on a planning commission, and solar companies are swooping in here in my county.

  • We’re not supposed to use logical arguments and facts when we’re confronted with liberal idiocy and panic over a purely invented phenomenon?
    For those who claim that “global warming” is caused of exacerbated by mankind, you should look at the greenhouse contributions of volcanic activity and stop ignoring the fact that the Earth is currently enjoying an interglacial period, but the warming temperatures are great for panicking the masses and provide excuse for imposing a totalitarian socialist world government.
    Take note, those that meet to commiserate global warming seem to find a means to be richly rewarded for their efforts to “save” the planet from temperatures that have been the norm in past eras.
    The sheer number of private jets transporting the uber rich to the latest meeting in Scotland is the best indication of the profligate waste these people ignore while demanding the hoi polloi tighten their belts and enjoy the crumbs they decide to allow us.

  • Even the term “renewable energy” is a lie. While the sun shines and wind blows, the process to extract energy from them is not renewable. It is all based on consumables and oft time rare materials in order to produce their, not so clean, energy.

  • When you say “(For the record, powering the world with solar energy would require more than 51 billion panels, which would take up more than 115,000 square miles, a parcel of land larger than Arizona.)’

    Is that just electricity generation or total ENERGY?

  • It wasn’t even mentioned that solar only produces power during daylight hours (not including cloudy conditions); that it seldom produces more than 60% of it’s rating, which goes down with age, because the angle of the sun is NEVER exactly 90 degrees to the panels; and that most of the power must be stored which requires massive amounts of batteries which are just another waste or resources.

  • The only “green” in the Left’s green agenda is the money as in Marxist-communist redistribution of wealth. The “wealth” gets taken from all the “folks” and “redistributed” to favored political cronies with occasional pennies leaking past back to the folks via dependency programs.

    Both solar and wind turbines do great harm to the environment–that “place” where we the people are trying to live and prosper.

  • The blades from the wind turbines are made from poisonous material and cannot be destroyed safely.

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About Issues & Insights

Issues & Insights is run by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our goal is to bring our decades of combined journalism experience to help readers understand the top issues of the day. We’re doing this on a voluntary basis, because we believe the nation needs the kind of cogent, rational, data-driven, fact-based commentary that we can provide. 

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